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Date: 14 August 2008

De-recognition threat after East Ayrshire awards care contract to cheapest bidder

UNISON Scotland today launched a petition aimed at East Ayrshire Council following a move by Lifeways, a commercial care company, to derecognise the union. The council awarded a contract for looking after adults with learning disabilities to Lifeways, after the private company undercut the existing provider - Cornerstone Community Care, a voluntary organisation with 28 years experience in the field and which was formed by concerned parents and professionals.

From 1st July the staff and care packages transferred from Cornerstone to Lifeways. As the sole recognised union, UNISON have tried to enter in to constructive dialogue with Lifeways, pointing out that the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) regulations protect transfer of union recognition. Despite this from day one Lifeways have indicated they do not intend to recognise UNISON for collective bargaining purposes.

Simon Macfarlane, UNISON Regional Officer said "We are launching a petition calling on the council to ensure that Lifeways treats our members and the people they care for with respect. The council cannot be allowed to wash their hands of the situation, as they have been trying to do. They should be telling Lifeways in no uncertain terms that they have a duty and obligation to recognise UNISON and enter in to meaningful discussions with us.

"What particularly concerns us is what does this company have to hide that they don't want staff organised and represented by an independent trade union? Since we began raising Lifeways' attitude we have been contacted by parents and carers of adults with learning disabilities who are complaining there was little or no consultation over the awarding of this contract. They feel that the care needs of their relatives have been bought and sold to the lowest bidder with no consideration of their views or of the quality of service."

UNISON is also gravely concerned that the council didn't carry out an Equality Impact Assessment which is required to assess the impact of this decision on people with disabilities. Simon said "UNISON will fight for justice for the carers and the people they care for. It remains to be seen if East Ayrshire Council cares about this service and the people who provide it."


Note to Editors

1) Lifeways was one of a number of companies who won contracts to provide care services to East Ayrshire Council this year; it is the only one who has moved to derecognise UNISON.

2) The complete wording of the petition is: 'We the undersigned are appalled by the attempt by private company Lifeways to derecognise UNISON. UNISON members in Lifeways provide care and support to adults with learning difficulties. Up until 1st July 2008, when East Ayrshire Council awarded the contract to Lifeways, they were employed by Cornerstone, a voluntary organisation, who recognised UNISON. Lifeways have from the moment they took over attempted to derecognise the union. UNISON members look after some of the most vulnerable in our community; they should have access to an independent union. What have Lifeways got to hide that they don't want staff organised in a union? East Ayrshire Council are trying to wash their hands of the situation. We the undersigned call on Lifeways to recognise UNISON and demand that our Council exerts the maximum pressure to this end.

3) We have contact details of a concerned parent of an adult with learning disabilities who would be prepared to outline these to the press. (please contact Simon Macfarlane for access).

4) Lifeways is funded by private equity company August Equity (See http://www.augustequity.com/news/august-equity
-backs-management-buy-out- lifeways-co
). The practice of Lifeways does nothing to enhance the low reputation private equity firms have for staff and trade union rights.

For Further Information Please Contact: Simon Macfarlane (Regional Organiser) 07703 194 132(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)