Unite attack 'belligerent' Norwood over job cuts

By Jennifer Lipman, February 18, 2011

Norwood has defended itself over employment union Unite’s allegations that it is one of the voluntary sector’s “renegade employers”.

Unite accused the charity of not living up to its “caring” label after talks on staff pay cuts and new contracts broke down within minutes.

The disability charity has been heavily hit by local authority budgets cuts and has lost around £4 million in funding.

In November it laid out plans to cut the wages of front-line care staff and make 20 per cent of head office staff redundant, as well as reduce supplier costs.

But Jamie Major, Unite’s regional officer, called the new contracts “Dickensian” and said that asking people to sign them was “a disgraceful way to treat loyal caring staff.”

He accused Norwood of “belligerence” and said: “Staff feel humiliated, upset and angry by the way Norwood is treating them. We are now considering all options, including a consultative ballot for industrial action.

But Norwood stressed that Unite had made the decision to end talks prematurely, rather than continue discussions for the scheduled two hours. A spokesman for the charity said it would be happy to resume discussions at a later date.

A Norwood spokesman said: “We are saddened by the inflammatory and unprofessional comments made [by] Unite.”

He said Norwood had carried out a “lengthy and meaningful consultation” with staff and had revised plans in response to the concerns that were raised.

He added: “The need to cut our costs remains imperative if we are to maintain the services on which so many vulnerable people with learning disabilities, and children and families in need, rely.”

Last updated: 10:47am, February 21 2011