CHILDREN'S homes could close if staff involved in a six-year pay dispute demand what they're owed now, unions have been warned.

The non-payment of weekend enhancements and shift allowances - which could total £200,000 - came to light when changes were made to council staff's terms and conditions of employment earlier this year.

Paperwork shows some staff are owed thousands of pounds in non-payments - going back up to six years.

According to union UNISON, the council's assistant chief executive for human resources, Julia Bell, has said that if employees receive full, backdated payment now, the children's residential home service, which runs three homes, wouldn't be viable as there's no money available to fund payment.

UNISON representative Brian Steele said they're still in discussions with the council to try and resolve the issue 'satisfactorily'.

He said: "It could pose serious risk to the service's future. All council services are emotive to people and we want to resolve any outstanding issues to keep these vital services.

"No overall agreement has been reached but individuals are aware of what's owed to them."

When asked if the council had put forward its settlement proposals, Mr Steele said discussions had taken place but they were 'ongoing'.

A spokeswoman for Barnsley Council confirmed it's still in discussions with staff and the trade unions involved - GMB and UNISON.

She added: "There are three children's residential homes that could be affected."

UNISON's proposal to settle the issue is for each employee's back-pay entitlement to be calculated by the council, going back up to six years, but for the payment to be deferred until their employment is terminated, either by the council or through them leaving for another job, rather than being paid now.

It says this would avoid any sudden financial impact that could jeopardise jobs or future viability of the service, as well as meet members' wishes to safeguard jobs and secure fair financial compensation.

However, it's understood the council's position is that a settlement will only be possible if all employees are in agreement.

If not, the council may default to a position where each employee receives their full back-pay entitlement now which would 'almost certainly result in its children's homes closing or being out sourced', UNISON said.

A UNISON newsletter says: "UNISON does not consider this to be an idle threat as we are actually aware that the council needs to cut £18million from its budget next year.

"It would be disastrous if a settlement were scuppered because some individuals want their back-pay now."