A trade union has accused Wiltshire Council of using “bullyboy” tactics in a long-running dispute over pay.

Wiltshire traffic wardens are to be balloted for further strike action two years after the dispute was first raised in February 2022.

Strikers oppose the removal of a 10% unsocial hours allowance, which, according to trade union GMB, would see them lose about £180 per month in take-home pay. 

GMB reports that social workers who provide out-of-hours service are already planning a three-day strike, starting Friday, February 16, over a loss of a 20% allowance that will see them lose from up to £750 per month. 

Andy Newman, GMB Branch Secretary, said: "The senior managers at Wiltshire Council, led by 'Terrible Terence' Herbert, the Chief Executive, are determined to cut pay for the key front-line staff, despite Wiltshire Council boasting of their good financial position compared with other councils. 

"Whereas any reasonable employer would have compromised by now, Wiltshire Council is threatening to ram the pay cuts through, using the unethical practice of ‘fire and rehire’.

“Letting an industrial dispute continue for two full years is a sign of poor management. 

"The council have offered to ‘protect’ the pay until December 2027 for existing staff, which delays the pain, but doesn't stop it.

“However, they are using bullyboy tactics by making that pay protection conditional on staff voluntarily agreeing to the pay cut.  

"GMB and other unions have warned Wiltshire Council that we believe that threatening staff over pay protection is unlawful, and even were it lawful it would be the desperate tactic of a cowboy employer.

“It is not too late for the council to withdraw this threat." 

Terence Herbert, Chief Executive of Wiltshire Council, said: “We are once again disappointed in the action GMB has taken by going down this route, given we remain in consultation.

“We have been seeking to reach a collective agreement but to date the unions have not provided any alternative feasible proposals.

“Throughout this process we have strictly adhered to employment law and always will.

“It is incorrect for GMB to state that the council has not compromised as following a working group which included all three unions, we made changes to our original proposal and included an offer of a four-year pay protection which the unions balloted their members on in September 2022.

“Unison and Unite did get a mandate to agree to these proposed changes.

“All unions agreed that a four-year pay protection was a generous offer when they balloted their members, however GMB then provided a recommendation to their members to reject the proposal.

“Despite entering into ACAS conciliated talks and having further discussions with our three unions, no alternative feasible proposal has come forward yet that would allow us to reach a collective agreement, and this is why the process remains ongoing.”

The CEO also explained that the existing terms and conditions are not sustainable and that the council wants to pay staff for “the actual hours they work during unsocial hours, as opposed to a flat percentage on their whole salary.”

He added: “It’s important to note there will be no immediate dismissal and offer of re-engagement (also called 'fire and re-hire') despite GMB stating that this will be the approach.

“Our absolute preference remains to reach a collective agreement but if this is not possible then we will seek to reach agreement with staff on an individual basis.

“We remain open to alternative proposals that meet our business objectives. 

“If our proposals are agreed then affected staff won’t see any changes to their pay for four years, as we have offered a generous pay protection, and we ensure all salaries are paid at the market rate in line with our pay policy.”