Monday, November 27, 2006

Union Learner Reps (ULR) come to Barnet

Whilst we have been relatively successful in running 15 courses for staff in Environmental Services we are acutely aware that all Council staff should have the same opportunities.

This September, 10 UNISON members completed their ULR training. They are due to attend the first meeting with training champions for all the service areas across the Council this December. We hope this will be the start of training opportunities for all staff regardless whether they belong to a trade union.

ULRs are really Learning Champions, government legislation has ensured that ULRs have a legal entitlement to carry out their role.

We are keen to recruit and train more ULRs.

If you are interested in finding out what is involved please contact Carmen Bruno (UNISON Life Long Learning Coordinator)

Barnet UNISON providing training for new UNISON stewards in Barnet

Without stewards the union would not exist. That is why our branch is determined to keep providing training for any UNISON members taking on the responsibilities of a steward.

We have run several courses locally (Hendon Town Hall) because we want stewards to relate what they learn directly to their workplace. Everyone who has been on the course has given the course a ‘big thumbs up’.

Taking on the steward’s role is a responsibility, but you are not alone. We have an extensive network of stewards and Officers, all at the end of the phone or email.

But we always need more stewards, so if you are interested please contact the Barnet UNISON office and we will arrange for someone to call you.

Barnet UNISON and Barnet Council collect Awards for Return2Learn

Last week Barnet Council and Barnet UNISON accepted two Awards for Employer of the Year and Life Long Learner of the Year, from College of North East London (CoNEL)

It may be news to Barnet Council staff but yes it is true.

It is a reward for the all the hard work done by the UNISON Life Long Learning Coordinator Carmen Bruno working in partnership with the managers and staff in Environmental Services.

Return2Learn is spreading across the whole council. We are hoping to confirm that there will be an Open Day to promote Return2Learn in early February 2007.

If you want to know more about what it means and how to access courses please email:

Fremantle workers update Nov 2006

Fremantle have written to Barnet UNISON complaining that our previous article was misleading. Firstly is is good to see that the Blog is being read.

So what was misleading?

The misleading bit is the reference to the 'fluctuation clause'. We reported "Fremantle and Catalyst have decided that it is easier to attack experienced hard working low paid workers than approach Barnet Council and demand they honour the contract.”

Fremantle insist this misrepresents the situation.............

But wait a minute.......according to our Regional Officer, Fremantle have repeatedly ignored our requests to hold off the attacks on Barnet Fremantle workers conditions until the outcome of their disccussions with Barnet Council have been completed.

So, Fremantle, how about an early Christmas present for your staff?

Call off your plans to attack their terms and conditions and start pursuing the REAL alternative....sitting down with Barnet Council to implement the 'Fluctuation clause'.

I am sure staff and relatives and the trade unions would fully support this initiative....let's work together.

We are waiting.....................................

Government Snubs union’s call for Pensions justice - Glenn Kelly (Local Government NEC member)

With the best pension scheme in Europe netting a £28,000 a year for a MP’s, Phil Wools the local Government minister got to his feet last week to lecture us on why the government needed to attack our pension because of affordability

Despite over 1000 delegates lobbying parliament on Wednesday 22nd November to call on government to protect our pensions New labour (who we fund to the tune of £2m plus a year) have now put their new offer on the table, as predicted they want to us to pay more for less.


Having already scrapped the right to retire at 60, (if you have 25yrs local government service) which has saved the employers £15billion, they have refused to even move on the protection offered for existing members of the scheme. Only those over 50 are being offered protection.

We pay more they pay less!

They now want us to pay more. At the moment ex manual workers pay 5% of their salary in pension contributions and the rest pay 6%.

The government offer is now saying contribution rates will be 5.5% on the first £12k earned and 7.5% on rest. It will be some of the lowest paid who will suffer most out of this.

But, It won’t stop there, unlike the past where the rates of contribution were fixed they now want us to bear the brunt of any future problems. They are proposing that the amount we pay is reviewed again in 2009 for any further changes being implemented in 2011.

Whilst we pay more, the employers will be able to cut their contribution rate down to 13.2% from 14.5%.

Redundancy rights attacked

At the moment you can take your pension at 50 if your made redundant and in many council’s you can also get added years. Both these measures are now to go and you will not be able to take your pension even if made redundant before the age of 55 this is to be introduced in 2010

Attack on the ill health retirement rights

At the moment if your declared permanently unfit for your job you can take your pension and get added years service. The government are now proposing that is not enough. If your declared unfit for your job but told you are fit for “any gainful” employment even outside public services then you lose the right to this benefit and will only get the pension you’ve accrued.

On top of this even if you are declared unfit and get your ill health pension, it could be taken off you, if later on your declared fit for gainful work. This could be a bully’s charter of the sick.

Accrual Rate

The only real plus on offer is the promise that the accrual rate will now be 1/60th rather than 1/80th. In the main this would mean that you could get a bigger pension or a higher lump sum than currently.

However this higher rate will only apply to service after 2008. The government documents do not mention what happens to all your existing service.

In return for this slight increase we will all be forced to work an extra five years longer or lose significant proportion of our pension.

What next

The local government executive meets on Monday the 4th December we must ensure that this offer is rejected and the strike ballot is to begin.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Save local swimming pool in Grahame Park - Barnet College

After 30 years, Barnet College has decided to close the swimming pool at its site on Grahame Park Way in Colindale by 21/12/06. The college stated that it had been ‘forced - entirely because of financial considerations - to take this action’, citing issues such as the age of the pool and that future remedial costs would be unaffordable.

Pool users however, have been advised by Barnet College that it is because they want to convert it into accommodation for either staff/students. If extra accommodation is required, then all options should be explored fully. There was no consultation with students, community group pool users, the general public or staff, all of whom use it. The pool was closed down during mid October 2006 and by the end of October, the decision had been made to close it permanently. This was despite Barnet College not yet having applied for the necessary planning permission, which could take at the least, many months.

The swimming pool never made a profit, although it generated an income from community group users. Staff over the years have presented income generating schemes, none of which to date have been adopted, but a further proposal is being presented by Barnet UNISON. Sponsorship could have been sought. Lottery funding could also have been a viable possibility, as a community college in London recently received £ 400,000 for their sports programme.

This swimming pool is in the middle of a deprived north London estate, which is in desperate need of sports facilities. A representative for Jewish and Muslim community pool users stated that it will be impossible to replicate the single sex sessions offered for religious reasons, at the College. Low income families will also be deprived of affordable swimming lessons. Finally, members of the public, all students (including those with disabilities and those on sports courses) and staff at Barnet College have lost their local pool for ever.

Everyone knows that swimming is a great form of exercise and the benefits to our health are numerous. Exercise is key to weight management, a healthy heart and greater energy levels, and, coupled with a sensible diet, is essential for us all to live a long and healthy life. It is also very important for children to learn the habit of taking regular exercise early on in life and swimming can be a fun way to keep fit.

Time is of the essence, this pool is due to be closed by mid December. Once closed, it is highly unlikely to re-open again due to damage to the water pipes.

Barnet UNISON with the support of the Teaching Union (UCU) have started a petition and are seeking urgent talks with the College.

Please support our campaign by writing immediately to Tony Alderman, Chairman of the Board of Governors, Barnet College, Wood Street, Barnet, EN5 4AZ, telling him that Barnet College must keep the pool open. If you are in a position to offer sponsorship or make a substantial donation to finance this community pool, please contact UNISON on 020 8359 2088.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Fremantle workers dispute gathers momentum

A packed public meeting of angry relatives and Fremantle staff demanded to know why local politicians were not getting involved in this dispute. Eddy Coulson UNISON Regional officer reported that there has been a slight shift in negotiations but that there was still a long way to go.

UNISON Fremantle Convenor Carmel Reynolds questioned the wisdom of reducing the sick pay entitlement. "We don't want staff coming into work sick and infecting vulnerable residents, the consequences could be fatal!"

What angered relatives and staff the most was to learn that a fluctuation clause in the contract between Barnet Council and Catalyst Housing in the event of a funding problem was being ignored. It appears that Fremantle and Catalyst have decided that it is easier to attack experienced hard working low paid workers than approach Barnet Council and demand they honour the contract.

It was agreed at the meeting that a further public meeting be called for in January next year and all efforts made to ensure both councillors of all parties and local MPs attend. Relatives and staff agreed to attend Scrutiny meeting on 13 December and ask for urgent intervention.
Please send any messages of support for the UNISON Fremantle workers to
5 November 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

LGPS mass lobby of Parliament: 22 November 2006

Make sure you have written to your MP?

Has your MP responded?

Has your MP agreed to meet you?

If yes, what are they saying?

If no, let the branch know

Send details of your correspondence with your local MP to Barnet UNISON branch.
Don't let her rob your Pension!

Make sure you go to the National UNISON link to keep up to date