Sunday, April 29, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Friday 13th April D DAY for Barnet staff

Dear Colleagues

Our office has literally been bombarded with calls from members who have received letters giving notice of the Council’s intention to change the terms and conditions of your contract.

It is our view that the Council have not given sufficient notice to staff as they are required by Statute. We will most likely be advising and supporting all members to take out employment tribunal claims against the Council.

I must express my personal dismay that the Council has chosen to send out the letter on the very day before the meeting with the Joint Secretaries of the London Provincial Council to try and resolve the dispute. This is happening tomorrow and they do this today. What arrogance? What utter disrespect for the disputes resolution process?

This meeting has been mentioned by the Chief Executive in the First Team and the date was agreed with senior officers of the Council.

It was the Joint Trade Unions view that it was in the interests of our members to try and find a negotiated settlement to the proposal. A strike ballot could have commenced weeks ago but we hoped that a meeting with the Provincial Secretaries could lead to a proposal that we could put to our members. There seems little or no prospect of this happening now. It needs a miracle because for any agreement to be reached BOTH sides need to commit to make concessions.

It seems clear now that the Council NEVER had any intention to make any concessions which quite frankly shows contempt for the staff and their trade union representatives.

It is clear from the responses to the grievances that this proposal is going to show considerable hardship to large numbers of staff and particularly the low paid. The offers of loans are not adequate and neither are the repayment options. The offers of help and support changing direct debits are no where near the level that will be required and we suspect any requests for assistance will be dealt with by too few staff who will never have done this sort of thing before. They’ll also be affected so PLEASE bear that in mind when talking to them.

As for the savings, we say £120,000 may be a lot of money but the Council has £19.5 million owed to it and we would rather they spent time chasing these debts than using OUR money to invest.

Perhaps they thought staff were an easy target and that you would all roll over and accept it. We think they’d better think again. Already we have heard some companies may charge for changing the direct debits and the whole process may take far longer than the unlawful notice they have given. Something we would have put to them in our consultation meeting with the Provincial Council.

Most of us are all too familiar with Bank charges and how difficult it is to get the money back.

Through consultation with our members we have had a number of proposals that we were prepared to talk to them about BUT that opportunity has been seemingly taken AWAY.

Like they are doing with YOUR money!

What’s the big deal?
There have been a few and I say only a handful of comments that this is all a waste of time for the Trade Unions to be involved in.

Maybe for some members of staff this is not an inconvenience but this maybe a surprise to some staff but Barnet staff are not on big salaries unless you are a senior manager (I believe that Barnet is in the top bracket for this group of staff)

Most staff are just about coping with having to live and work in London with increases in Council Tax, road tax, utility bills, interest rates, rent increases.
So it does matter and it matters that the Council has now wasted more money on this proposal when it would have been better spent chasing debts.
As Branch Secretary I have the opportunity to see what is happening across the whole council and there are areas where the Council should be focusing on saving money, not looking to make a ‘fast buck’ off the backs of their staff.

I will be asking for the UNISON London region to begin the strike ballot which I would ask all of you to support.

If you haven’t filled in a grievance form, it is not too late.

Ring the branch and send them by fax to 0208 368 5985

What now?

I am in discussions with the GMB and the two unions Regional Officers. We will be going to the meeting tomorrow with the Joint Secretaries of the Provincial Council and we will let all our members know by Monday 16 April what the latest position is.

John Burgess
Branch Secretary

Regional Officer Eddy Coulson has commented too. He thinks the savings are miniscule compared to what the Council needs and is owed. It is creating undue tensions in so many households and will inevitably create problems for staff who have neither the time, ability nor inclination to deal with them. This is not the fault of staff it is how some are and how they cope with life. It is aggravation we and they could all do without. He is also sceptical about the amount that this is all supposed to save for the Council. According to his calculations the sums involved are less than £100,000 and the saving is a single saving not a recurring annual saving. This much aggravation and this much grief for so little it beggars belief.