A dispute at the Mid Counties Co-operative Nursery on the Sussex University campus at Falmer has ended after staff were offered better terms.
The GMB union said that the Mid Counties Co-operative had improved the “consolidation” payments on offer to staff who were being told to accept lower-paid contracts or face redundancy.
A consultative ballot found that more than 80 per cent were in favour of strike action – but the improved offer appears to have swayed sentiment.
The GMB said: “Members of the GMB Union, working at the Mid Counties Co-operative Nursery on the Sussex University campus, who were to vote on taking potential strike action, have instead collectively chosen to accept either company redundancy or increased consolidation packages in a move to settle the current dispute.
“The decision comes as the GMB, the union for university support staff, were preparing to formally ballot for strike action after a recently undertaken consultative ballot produced a 83.3 per cent result to move to do so following proposed cuts to pay and conditions of around £95,000 a year for around 12 long-term staff.
“Staff, GMB union and parent pressures ensured Mid Counties changed their initial entrenched stance that consolidation payments offered were fair, regardless of failing to provide business plans which supported their claims of ongoing losses being unable to be corrected while staff stayed on (existing) terms and conditions.”
GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said: “GMB members working at the nursery on the Sussex University campus decided, after receiving a hard fought for and improved offer doubling earlier consolidation payments, to make individual decisions in respect of either accepting the increased offer to remain or to accept redundancy from Mid Counties and move on.
“Although keen to fight on for a full reversal of the decision to reduce pay rates, the stress and uncertainty of doing so in a nursery they had all worked very hard for years to build up to its current successful position was just becoming too distressing to do so.
“The obvious company view of staff, which comes alongside the long-term financial detriment these hardworking members will suffer with the slashing of their terms and conditions, is a clear indication of the low esteem Mid Counties Co-Operative hold for their staff.
“And although the hard fought for increased consolidation packages will delay those financial hardships from manifesting immediately, for around half it was a sign that they could no longer work for such an employer and they have instead opted to take redundancy, meaning the nursery will lose invaluable long-term skills and dedicated members of staff when they leave.
“Although pleased that the company doubled the consolidation offer, who knows what long-term damage this whole sorry unnecessary process will have on the business going forward as certainly Mid Counties Co-Operative Nursery’s reputation has been stained throughout this matter in its treatment to those staff who, going forward, will be underpaid for all their hard work and development.”