Villagers form union to ‘protect way of life’

RESIDENTS of a North York Moors Village where people with learning disabilities have lived alongside volunteer workers for 60 years have formed a union in a bid to “protect their way of life from commercialisation.”

Last summer Camphill Village Trust (CVT), which runs the village of Botton, announced plans to end its practice of unpaid co-workers, who received benefits like housing, utilities, food, and holidays instead of pay, and introduce salaried staff instead.

The Trust said the changes were necessary to comply legal and tax requirements, but a campaign was set up, believing it would mark an end of co-living. Earlier this month the CVT and co-workers agreed at London’s High Court that they would be treated as employees.

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Now 70 residents and co-workers have formed a branch of Unite Community, a union for those not in conventional or regular employment.

Unite Community coordinator for Yorkshire John Coan said it would offer the residents and their co-worker friends “solidarity in their struggle.”

The union said 80 per cent of the Botton residents signed a petition calling on CVT to reverse its controversial plans and revert to the founding principles.

Huw John, chief executive of CVT said it looked forward to hearing from Unite, but it was “somewhat confused” by some of the claims by co-workers and campaigners, given the High Court agreement.

“The arrangements being put in place at Botton Village adhere exactly to the agreement we negotiated with the co-workers - at their request,” he said. “We consider it an act of bad faith to sign up to an agreement in court and then complain about its implementation.”