Turning Point responds to ‘race to the bottom’ claims

Third sector treatment provider Turning Point has issued a statement in response to the Unite trade union’s claims that the charity is planning to sack its workforce and re-employ them on revised terms and conditions, with some set to lose thousands of pounds a year. 

The charity is carrying out a consultation with staff about changes to their terms and conditions, the result, it says, of cuts in local authority and health budgets ‘starting to bite’. The proposals, which were ‘not being made lightly’, would have a ‘limited impact’ on employees the charity’s substance misuse services, it added.

‘Like many organisations in this difficult economic climate, Turning Point has to constantly review our costs and try to work out how we can make the efficiencies that will help protect jobs and services for the vulnerable people we support,’ the organisation stated. ‘We have begun discussions with our recognised union, Unite, and our staff about these difficult issues and put proposals on the table for dialogue about how we face the challenges ahead.’

Turning Point aimed to ‘protect as many jobs as possible’ by reviewing changes to its terms and conditions, it said. ‘This will affect a lot of people in different ways in Turning Point. However, we need to move towards a market rate for employees, one that protects their base pay. Indeed, we are proposing to increase base pay for those who are the lowest paid. The proposals are looking at various enhancements, including those paid for unsociable hours, many of which are no longer paid in the sectors within which we operate.’ The organisation was fully committed to the agreed formal consultation process with the union and wanted to work with them ‘to ensure a smooth process’, it said.

Unite, however, maintained the charity was ‘leading a race to the bottom’ in the voluntary sector. ‘This is devastating for staff,’ said regional officer Jamie Major. ‘Many of our 450 members stand to lose thousands of pounds a year. The Turning Point management is breaking faith with its staff, especially those transferred to the organisation with TUPE – Transfer of Undertaking (Protection of Employment) – contracts which protect their pay and conditions. Management says it is doing this so that the charity can compete with the competitive bidding process in the charity sector – but caring for vulnerable people should not be equated with the profit motive of the private sector.’

Meanwhile, Turning Point has been commissioned to deliver drug and alcohol services across Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and East Kent following a competitive tendering process. ‘It is through winning new services that Turning Point can continue to grow and maintain viability, supporting more people and strengthening our existing services,’ said Selina Douglas, managing director of substance misuse.