A council faces a revolt and potential strike action after it moved to disband a specialist group providing support for Ukranian refugees fleeing war to find safety in Scotland.

Calls have been made for a reversal of the move in Scotland's biggest city which has declared a housing emergency to run down a specialist team helping settle Ukranian arrivals.

GMB Scotland has lodged a grievance saying the move to merge the 20-strong team into the general asylum and homelessness service by Glasgow City Council has been forced through.

The team has helped settle thousands of families fleeing Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to build new lives in Scotland but have been told their specialist role is no longer needed at a meeting with managers.

The city council said the resettlement team will now be used to bolster other parts of the homeless service, as they fight to deal with a housing crisis.

The workers were only told of the wide-ranging changes to their role in December.

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Now the majority of the team are to be subject of a consultative ballot over potential strike action over the move.

The ballot asks if the workers were prepared to take action on the council's failure to meaningfully consult or hear a legitimate grievance appeal.

It also says there is a potential "discrimination and de-skilling" of current job roles.

It said: "GMB consider your current treatment by your employer to be disgraceful. There has been an alarming failure to consult on a matter which may constitute a fundamental change to your job role. The use of a highly controversial 'not competent' judgment has denied you the opportunity to address your valid concerns about proposed changes in your service".

The Herald: The MS Victoria, docked in Leith, accommodated Ukrainians

GMB Scotland say that council managers have "ripped up the rulebook" to centralise homeless services and ignored standard human resources procedures.

Council managers are now accused of breaching standard grievance procedures to force through the changes and ensure councillors do not hear the concerns of staff.

Glasgow City Council made a symbolic housing emergency declaration in December, in the wake of concerns over social unrest following moves to accelerate the clearance of a backlog of asylum claims by the Home Office.

The Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) - an amalgamation of Glasgow City Council and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde which delivers community health and social care services - had said there is a need to find alternative temporary accommodation with the use of rest centres to be able to cope.

The uncertainty issues over the resettlement team comes after research suggested Ukrainian families across Scotland were facing homelessness and destitution.

The British Red Cross said Ukrainians in the UK are four times more likely to face homelessness and warned 335 families will have applied for homelessness support in Scotland by the end of March.

And even more families will be caught up in more immediate “core homelessness” like sofa surfing, staying in unsuitable temporary accommodation and rough sleeping.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 resulted in millions of people being displaced, both within Ukraine and across Europe.

By October 17, 25,891 displaced people from Ukraine had arrived in the UK with a Scottish sponsor – one of the three ways in which displaced people from Ukraine can obtain visas for the UK.

The Scottish Government took on a key role in the operation of the Sponsorship Scheme by acting as a super sponsor.

John Slaven, GMB organiser at the council, said a grievance procedure raised by the union on behalf of members in the Ukrainian team was ruled incompetent by managers rather than, as normal, “upheld” or “rejected.”

Managers insisted the grievance claiming a lack of proper consultation need not be discussed and imposed the changes on Monday.

Mr Slaven said: “It is worrying that council managers believe they can simply ignore procedures whenever it suits them.

“Our members do not believe there was proper consultation over these changes and raised a grievance as they are entitled to.

“For managers to simply decide the grievance should not even be heard never mind discussed and ruled on raises far wider issues and is not acceptable in any way.

“It raises questions over the council’s commitment to good industrial relations and is not only a huge concern for our members but should be equally concerning concerning for councillors too.

“Our members are hugely concerned at the changes to their service and the impact it will have on Ukrainian refugees seeking sanctuary in Glasgow.

“There has been no proper consultation on these changes and for the council to simply dismiss a grievance raised by their own staff is both unprecedented and a cause of serious concern.

As at June 2023, there were around 3,900 Ukrainian nationals, who registered for active employment in Scotland. In 2002 there were just 50.

The 20-strong council specialist team has settled thousands of refugees fleeing Ukraine since the Russian invasion but, despite being a template for services around the country, council managers have decided it cannot continue as a standalone support services.

A Scottish Government survey indicates that as at September 29, 2023, 2,843 Ukrainian children were enrolled in primary and secondary schools across Scotland.

To create temporary accommodation capacity, the Scottish Government used hotel rooms and chartered two passenger ships – docked in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The ship docked in Glasgow, the MS Ambition, provided accommodation for nearly 1,500 people until March 2023 and the ship docked in Edinburgh, the MS Victoria, accommodated nearly 2000 displaced people from Ukraine until July 4.

The Herald:

By the end of 2022, Glasgow was said to be home to 2000 Ukrainians living across six hotels and the MS Ambition, a repurposed cruise ship, but the specialist resettlement unit helped find them longer-term homes.

Of passengers disembarking the MS Ambition since January 5, 2023, as of October, Scottish Government estimates show that 33% went into alternative temporary accommodation, 7% went into hosted accommodation, 29% went into social housing and 30% went into “unknown or other accommodation”.

Of passengers disembarking MS Victoria since April 2023, 72% went into alternative temporary accommodation, 1% went into hosted accommodation, 3% went into social housing and 23% went into “unknown or other accommodation”.

A spokeswoman for Glasgow’s Health and Social Care Partnership said: “We’ve been working tirelessly with Trade Unions and staff since December about their reintegration into our wider asylum and refugee team. This has involved a series of meetings and staff engagement sessions and that dialogue continues.

"Our focus is now firmly on the future, as we assess how we best use our limited resources to support all of Glasgow’s asylum seekers and refugees, including Ukrainians living here.

"Our Ukrainian resettlement team’s workload has reduced significantly, reflecting changes in national visa schemes, including the pause on new applications to the Super Sponsor Scheme. Meanwhile overall demand for asylum and refugee support has increased. We’re encouraging our staff to continue their superb work supporting those who have fled Ukraine alongside others, seeking similar support. It’s crucial we pool resources to assist all asylum seekers and refugees.”