Parking wardens across Wiltshire vote for further strike action in 'fire and rehire' dispute

By Jessica Durston - 22 May 2023


GMB, the union for Wiltshire Council staff, has confirmed that members have voted for further strikes in the ‘fire and rehire’ dispute affecting many frontline key workers including parking wardens.

GMB says it would prefer an amicable, negotiated solution, but if the council do not compromise, they say they are ready for the fight, with a fresh strike mandate.

The dispute has already seen Civil Enforcement Officers (parking wardens) across the county take 10 days of strike action since plans were announced in 2021 to remove a contractual uplift for unsocial hours, which would cost hundreds of front-line workers up to 20 per cent of their salaries.

GMB says it also understands that despite denials by council bosses that ‘fire and rehire’ was ever on the table, Wiltshire Council sought legal advice from a top legal firm in June 2022, on how to use the tactic to force through this pay cut. 

The strike ballot closed on Friday 19 May, with 100 per cent of members who voted choosing to take action, thus extending the industrial action mandate.

David McMullen, GMB Regional Organiser said: “Wiltshire Council needs to be very clear that this overwhelming vote for further strike action by our members shows their utter determination to resist the proposed pay cut which has been threatened for a year and a half. 

“GMB has been forced to run another strike ballot for our members by the intransigence from the council’s top bosses, who could have allowed the existing ballot to roll on.

“The council, and we believe the decisions have been made right at the top by CEO Terence Herbert, have been dragging their feet, deliberately withholding information from us and refusing to respond to GMB’s repeated attempts to seek a solution to this dispute.

“Council bosses have denied they have ever contemplated using ‘fire and rehire’, but GMB has in its possession documentary proof that in June 2022, the council sought legal advice from the solicitors firm, Bevan Brittan, where section 3.7 of the solicitors’ response is advice to Wiltshire Council on “pushing through fire and rehire”.

“GMB would prefer an amicable, negotiated solution, but if the council don’t compromise, we are ready for the fight, with a fresh strike mandate."

Andy Brown, Wiltshire Council Corporate Director Resources and Deputy Chief Executive, said: “It’s great to hear that GMB would ‘prefer an amicable, negotiated solution to this ongoing issue’, because this has been our position all along.

“However, GMB’s claim of an ‘overwhelming vote for further strike action’ is somewhat overstated, as only 23 members were balloted and of these only 14 responded – we have more than 5,000 employees at Wiltshire Council.

“As we have stated throughout this process, we are keen to resolve this dispute through collective consultation, and so the continued reference to ‘fire and rehire’ is unhelpful. Like any reasonable employer, legal advice was sought on the process and options available, and this is an option that is available to employers. However, the fact that we have been engaged in collective consultation for nearly 18 months is evidence that we are looking for every possible way to avoid this outcome.

“In early April, we held another ACAS facilitated meeting with GMB, but the union did not put forward any counter proposals to proposed changes to our unsocial hours policy.

“We will continue to work with all parties to try to reach an agreement so that our staff are fairly and appropriately rewarded, while ensuring our policies are standardised, fit for purpose, financially viable and support delivery of the council’s Business Plan.”

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