By Roz Scott
Sussex University staff are angry about changes to the contracts of the 12 longest-serving carers at the Co-operative run nursery which will leave them thousands of pounds a year worse off.
The nursery staff were told on Monday 25 July that they had two weeks to decide whether to accept redundancy or take what amounts to a 30 per cent wage cut and accept a new set of terms and conditions.
After objections from the GMB union, the nursery’s management extended the deadline by two weeks. The staff have now been told that if they do not accept the new terms and conditions by next Thursday (18 August) they will immediately be made redundant.
Between them the 12 staff have given 187 years of service to the nursery.
The union has called for
- the Co-op to immediately withdraw the threat of redundancy against these 12 staff
- the vice-chancellor and his executive group to review urgently the terms of its agreement with the Co-op to ensure that the Co-op is in full compliance with these terms and with the University’s commitments to good employment practice
- parents of children attending the Sussex Childcare Centre to write to the Co-op management and the vice-chancellor and his executive group to express their outrage at this treatment of Sussex nursery staff
Since 2013, the nursery has been run by Co-operative Childcare under an agreement with the university.
A spokesman for Co-operative Childcare said: “Ensuring a successful and sustainable future for our Brighton nursery at Sussex University is our priority.
“As a part of this commitment it has become necessary to align employee benefit packages across the nursery to ensure a fair, equal and sustainable reward structure for all colleagues.
“This process has resulted in individual consultations with 12 colleagues who are on legacy employment contracts following the nursery’s acquisition in 2012.
“Our strong preference is to retain all 12 members of staff and we have made a reasonable and fair offer to all those affected. We are committed to protecting the future of all 43 colleagues at Brighton and hope this offer will be accepted.”
The GMB said that it was undertaking a consultative ballot of nursery staff as it decides how best to oppose the proposed cuts to pay and conditions worth £95,000 a year.
The union said that the Mid Counties Co-operative would leave staff between £5,000 and £14,000 a year worse off.
It said: “The new £2.1 million Co-Operative Brighton Childcare Nursery, which includes a £200,000 outside play area, has reported positive growth with an estimated income of over £850,000 sales or fees a year.
GMB organiser Gary Palmer said: “Mid Counties management has refused to clarify what’s really going on behind the scenes.
“On one hand we’re told business is booming, with new families joining the nursery and new staff being actively recruited.
“On the other, management has said that inherited staff wages (are) forcing the business to run at a loss and that only a £95,000 pay cut will see it back into profitability.
“On top of the pay cuts, changes to sickness and holiday entitlements will mean everything that GMB members have earned and gained through long service and personal development will be slashed in value to enable Mid Counties Co-Operative to increase profits.”
Sussex University childcare centre manager Karen Parker did not wish to comment.