Staff members from a Brighton nursery run by the Midcounties Co-operative, who were considering striking in protest against pay cuts, have agreed to accept either company redundancy or increased consolidation packages. The nursery is located on the Sussex University campus and has been run by the society since 2013 under an agreement with the university.
GMB, the trade union representing the employees, was preparing to formally ballot for strike action after undertaking a consultative ballot, which produced an 83.3% result to move to do so.
According to the union, staff were told on 25 July that they had two weeks to decide whether to accept redundancy or take cuts to pay and conditions worth £95,000 a year. The term was extended to 18 August. The cuts would have affected 12 long-term serving members of staff.
GMB organiser, Gary Palmer, said: “After receiving a hard-fought-for improved offer doubling earlier consolidation payments, GMB members working at the nursery on the Sussex University campus decided to make individual decisions in respect of either accepting the increased offer to remain or to accept redundancy from Midcounties 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.
“The increased consolidation packages will delay financial hardships from manifesting immediately, but for around half it was sign that they could no longer work for such an employer and they have instead opted to take redundancy.”
Mr Palmer added that GMB was “pleased” the organisation improved its consolidation offer, but believes Midcounties Co-operative nursery’s reputation “has been stained throughout this matter in its treatment of those staff who, going forward, will be underpaid for all their hard work and development”.
The nursery and pre-school employs more than 40 staff and offers 71 childcare places to university students, staff and the general public. The Midcounties Co-operative is the sixth largest nursery provider in the UK with 3,236 child places available across its 44 nurseries – which are all rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted.
A spokeswoman for Co-operative Childcare said: “We’re committed to the fair and equal treatment of all of our employees and the long-term success of our nursery at Sussex University. After carefully evaluating all of the options available to ensure a sustainable future for the nursery, we concluded that the most viable route was to align employee benefit packages across the nursery to ensure a fair, equal and sustainable reward structure for all colleagues.
“Retaining all members of staff was our strong preference and we made a fair and reasonable offer to incentivise all affected colleagues to remain with the Society.
“We’re pleased to confirm that a good proportion of affected colleagues accepted this offer and will remain a part of the team at our Sussex University nursery.
“We recognise this has been a difficult process for all affected colleagues and thank them for their patience and professionalism during this time. It has also been a challenging period for the parents and guardians of our nursery children, and equally we thank them for the concern and interest they have shown.”
- This article was amended on 26 August. A previous version said there were 40 nurseries, of which 91% were rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted.