EXCLUSIVE: care charity rips up union recognition

Cropleeds public sector pensions strike in november 2011 13

Workers had rejected a pay deal in a consultative ballot – with 92% of members knocking it back

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28th November 2018 by Graham Martin 15 Comments

A Scottish social care charity has withdrawn recognition from a trade union, in the midst of a bitter pay dispute.

Workers had rejected a pay deal in a consultative ballot – with 92% of members knocking it back.

However, there has been acrimony – not least online – with a clear deterioration of relations between employer and the union.

Bosses have accused the union of being mis-leading and hostile.

Now the charity has taken the drastic step of ending its voluntary recognition deal, which has been in place for 24 years.

Unison claims that it was only told of Cornerstone's decision at the same time as TFN was - at teatime on Wednesday (28 November).

The union also says charity bosses ripped up the recognition deal the day before management and the union were to meet with the concilliation service Acas to discuss the pay dispute.

Cornerstone, which employs 2,200 people across Scotland, provides vital care and support services for adults, young people and children across Scotland who live with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, autism, dementia and other support needs.

Management said it made its decision “after careful consideration and with no small measure of regret”.

The board said it moved after the deterioration of the relationship with Unison “began adversely impacting colleagues and the people they support”.

Edel Harris, chief executive of Cornerstone, said: “Our 24 year relationship with Unison has broken down to such an extent that it is having an adverse impact on colleagues and diverting senior management resource away from delivering on our strategy, at a critical point in its implementation.

“Despite our genuine attempts, in the last two years, to get back onto a more constructive footing, Unison has refused to change its approach and we have no alternative but to withdraw from our voluntary recognition agreement.

“Mis-leading and hostile statements from Unison, have caused alarm among our employees and, more importantly, raised unnecessary concern among the parents and guardians of those for whom we care, which is unforgivable.

“Our voluntary recognition agreement with Unison had the common objective of maintaining good industrial relations to further Cornerstone’s aims. Given, we are striving for better recognition and reward for those who work in social care, and do an incredible job of looking after some of the most vulnerable in our society, we are bewildered by Unison’s continued intransigence towards Cornerstone.

“This decision has no effect on how any of our colleagues, including those who wish to remain members of Unison or any other union, will be treated. We remain fully committed to listen and represent the views and interests of all Cornerstone colleagues, through positive channels of information and consultation, direct communications, and regular team briefings. We will continue to engage proactively with our Engagement Forum, which provides a voice for all of our people, union and non-union members alike.” 

Deborah Clarke, Unison organiser for the voluntary sector, told TFN: “We are saddened to hear Cornerstone feels it needs to take this decision. We were due to meet at Acas to continue our talks over pay.

“Cornerstone have cancelled the meeting leaving staff concerned and confused. Unison does not recognise the picture painted by Cornerstone.

“Our members are the very people who care for Cornerstone's service users and these clients are always at the forefront of their minds, they care deeply about the people they support and the overall service at Cornerstone. Unison will now look at statutory recognition.

“However we urge Cornerstone to meet with Unison in the best interests of the staff and the people they support in a genuine attempt to resolve the dispute.”

NOTE – this is a breaking news story and will be updated accordingly.

28th November 2018 by Concerned employee

Coincidence that there was an ACAS meeting due to take place tomorrow about pay? Don't believe the hype I volunteered to be in a team thinking this was going to be great. Unfortunately the ones who are saying it works are not the ones on the floor. Then to say we are not allowed a Union! it is getting silly now.

28th November 2018 by Anon

Very interesting read, also very interesting time to pull the agreement considering they were suppose to be meeting to discuss pay with acas tomorrow. Is this company scared of what may come out at acas? An engagement forum? Where the employer gets to choose who is involved in this, gets to manipulate staff to ensure they get their own way and say staff agreed. What use to be a caring company who valued their staff has been turned in to a company who just want to benifits their own pockets and don't follow their own values, policies or care for their own staff. Shocking state of affairs

28th November 2018 by Unison member

I hope that unison is going to publish all that they have on the deeds that cornerstone have been up to and take there fairwork agreement to the Scottish parliament

28th November 2018 by Staff member

How dare cornerstone treat the staff this way shocking and the day before Acas as well cowards the leadership team are you have showed your self for what you are cowards

28th November 2018 by Non union member

So disgusted with the lies that Cornerstone have published. I have been afraid to join UNISON because my Branch Leader is anti trade union.Me and my colleagues have all joined tonight and are sticking together.Really scared of what they will do next with out the union to stop them.I know that families are very supportive of us and I hope they now realise what we are having to deal with !!! Disgusted.

28th November 2018 by Family member

Edel I hope you are reading this Your staff are fighting back I as a family member of a person supported by your company I am speaking to you to talk to unison for the sake of the people you support if you do not do this it is a clear indication that cornerstone don’t care about staff or people you support

28th November 2018 by Unison steward

I have been in-undated with calls tonight regarding this. "Why hasn't Cornerstone engaged with staff re this unsavoury practice of not recognising our union. " "we need Unison to talk for us" "We are Unison doesn't the company understand it is there employees/members that drive and lead our stewards." Thank you all for your support this evening. We will continue to strive for fairness and better pay and conditions on your behalf.

28th November 2018 by Xxx

These views above are not representative of the brilliant team at cornerstone! The “brilliant team” would never take to the internet to slag off colleagues, they are prosessional! They would never slander each other as they are caring! Where are your values...no wonder this organisation has ended the relationship if this is how union folks behave!!! Good riddance!

28th November 2018 by Staff

Pretty sure most of these posts are written by UNISON?

28th November 2018 by Elaine Campbell

I want to share my support as cornerstone is very close to my heart. Edel - keep the people we support our values and purpose at the forefront - it’s what keeps me positive and I know it does you too. This will pass and you’ve stood up for what is right. We are all with you.

28th November 2018 by Steve Kindon

I commented, using my real name, the last time this dispute was badly reported by TFN (look back to see). If TFN wants to be taken seriously it has to stop the obvious, orchestrated UNISON bullying in the posts above this. Nearly all posts above are clearly from the same person. It is no wonder that Cornerstone has decided to cut ties with Deborah Clarke and UNISON if this is how they behave. They have exposed their true colours by yet more personal attacks.

28th November 2018 by Staff member intimidated by UNISON

A lot of these posts are clearly made by UNISON stewards, one of them admitted they did one. It's a total shame that the TFN report is taking statements from Deborah Clarke and others as fact. 92% of union members at Cornerstone did not vote to reject the pay award. I know as I asked my colleagues. The union membership is small and they're scared to say how many members it has and what the turnout was for this 92% vote. Debs is an unpleasant teller or untruths and treated folk with no respect. The union doesn't behave professionally. I am leaving Unison and joining Unite or Community as they will do a better job or representing me. I hope Cornerstone UNISON members will wake up and join me as well We'll still have advice and folk to accompany us if we want to so nothing's changed except UNISON and their bullying stewards in my area anyway will go away and stop spreading lies.

28th November 2018 by Dubious

How fortuitous that a staff member, a union member, a non union member, a “frightened staff member”, a steward and a family member of a supported person all formed an orderly queue to comment immediately after this article was published. With a similar message.

29th November 2018 by Staff member

Unison continually claim to be fighting for the majority however any of the claims they make are yet to be substantiated in my opinion, how many staff voted?. Not one person I have spoken to agrees with the hostile, aggressive and personal approach they have taken. It’s about the approach they have taken and it’s now time for them to aknowlege that.

29th November 2018 by Susan Smith

Note from TFN editor: comments have now been closed on this story and any comments that mentioned individual members of staff at Cornerstone or Unison have been removed.