In the next few days, you may receive a letter from the Council. It is being sent only to those who refused to sign up to the Essential Car User (ECU) buy-out. The letter in simple terms is just another request for you to voluntarily sign up to the buy-out with the threat, as before, that if you do not sign up voluntarily then the Council will dismiss and re-engage you anyway to force the removal of ECU. UNISON produced this advice sheet from the last voluntary buy-out offer which is still applicable in general terms (you can also downlaod the .pdf version here).
UNISON must tell you, however, that the Council’s letter contains a disgraceful deceit. Specifically, it states:
"We are aware that you did not sign by the original buy-out deadline and one of the reasons for this may have been as a result of UNISON advising that a dispute had been lodged. Now that the dispute process has concluded we would like to offer you the opportunity to accept the Council's buyout of £625 gross (circa £500 net) by signing and returning the attached slip by Friday August the 10th 2018."
The dispute has NOT concluded. Far from it; UNISON has notified the Council that a Trade Dispute exists and this has not been withdrawn by UNISON. The Trade Dispute still exists and it is in furtherance of that Trade Dispute that UNISON can ballot for formal industrial action. There can be no reason why the Council would come to the conclusion that the dispute has concluded. UNISON therefore believe that this is a lie.
The intention of the Council is clear. It seeks to persuade those, who have courageously refused to be bought off by the Council's paltry offer, and convince them that UNISON has given up and called off the dispute.
UNISON believe that this is the latest in a series of acts of bad faith by the Council. Last year, while UNISON sought to discuss new criteria for ECU, the Council was already drawing up its 2018/19 budget to make a £265k saving from ceasing the allowance.
We are again asking members to NOT sign up to the buy-out. If the Council moves to 'dismiss and re-engage' those who refuse to sign, all terms and conditions will remain the same. The only difference will be that they are then casual car users with no obligation to use their car for work purposes.
UNISON believe that the cheapest and most efficient way to provide Council services is to pay the current allowance to those staff who need a car for their job. The only way to show the Council that this is the case is to cease using your own car for work. If any action is implemented it must be widely supported and will mean escalating costs for the Council.
Going forward, UNISON held a members' meeting on Thursday at which we agreed to suggest to those who have had their ECU allowance removed already if they want to exercise their contractual right to not use their own car for work. This would be in anticipation of the outcome of any industrial action ballot for those currently in receipt of ECU. (To be clear, any casual car user can withhold the use of their car for work purposes immediately as you are not under a contractual obligation to use your own car for work. Those who are still in receipt of ECU have to be covered by a lawful industrial action ballot before they can withhold the use of their car as they are contractually bound to use their car.)
For any action - whether that is by casuals or those still in receipt of ECU - UNISON will give comprehensive advice on what to do. We will also support you 100% with any issues related to implementing a 'work to rule' or industrial action.
We will provide further updates in the next days and please contact us if you have any other queries.
UNISON Blackpool Local Government Branch