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Fallout sees Church of Scotland cut tie with Unite the union

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Church of Scotland administrative staff vote to end collective bargaining agreement with Unite the Union

The Church of Scotland is set to end its collective bargaining agreement with Unite the Union due to a fall-out between staff and officials.

Staff were understood to be unhappy with Unite’s approach following a dispute over pay earlier this year.

The union had called for industrial action in an attempt to disrupt the first weekend of the Church’s General Assembly.

A ballot of the 220 Church of Scotland offices staff saw an 80% turnout and a vote of 93 to 80 in favour of an end to the eight-year old recognition agreement.

Pauline Weibye, secretary to the Church’s Council of Assembly, said the church has taken on board a suggestion for a staff association to be formed instead of the trade union.

Unions and third sector organisations have co-operated consistently and well on the funding issues faced by the sector

“We will now be working closely with the whole staff group to ensure that we have robust collective bargaining arrangements for the future,” she said.

“Unite will continue to be able to represent individual staff union members.”

Unite the Union expressed disappointment at the move, which only affects staff working for the central administration of the Church and has no implications for parish ministers or staff working for other agenies, such as social care body CrossReach.

Deputy Scottish secretary Mary Alexander said: "We are extremely disappointed by the Church's move to de-recognise Unite and furthermore, we are concerned about the way the in which the Church has approached this matter.

“We will be meeting with our members in the coming days and will make further comment in due course."

Trade union representative body Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) also said it was concerned that the Church had opted to end its agreement.

Deputy general secretary Dave Moxham said the Church’s decision to cut the tie was not common and that unions generally have a good working relationship with civil society organisations.

“Faith, third sector and trade union organisations share a commitment to tackling wealth and income inequality,” he said.

“We work together to argue for decent social security and higher minimum wages to tackle the effects of income inequality, but without better and fairer work we will always be engaged in an uphill struggle.

“Unions and third sector organisations have co-operated consistently and well on the funding issues faced by the sector.”

Moxham added that as a significant proportion of its employees voted against the split the Church could still have maintained recognition.

The Church of Scotland is due to give Unite six months’ formal notice of the decision.