Saturday, June 30, 2007

How you can help Fremantle Care Workers

Please take 60 seconds of your time to complete this online Petition

Thank you on behalf of the Fremantle Care Workers

Dear Fremantle & CATALYST Housing .....................

Dear Carole


Thank you for your recent email. I am responding to that and to your letter to UNISON members who will be intending to strike on the 5th July. I will be making this email available to them and on the Barnet BLOG site.

Your email to Carmel and me states that the environments are the homes of service users- and must be respected as such. We take the gravest exception to that and consider it offensive as it infers that neither Carmel nor I intend showing respect to your residents and their homes. Similarly you intimate that by talking to our members there will be a break in service to residents. I am not certain what evidence you are basing this assumption on but it appears to me to be an attempt to impugn your staff and UNISON when you have no right to. You then tell us to meet your staff at alternate venues and outside of working hours. I propose meeting your staff outside of your buildings and in their own time! You have asked Carmel to ensure that there is no disruption to service users and that she should convey that to you in writing. Again I consider this offensive as it implies that that would be our intention but for your timely email. Nothing could be further from the truth and you will not be given the courtesy of such a written response beyond this.

To add a degree of insult you ask that we put in writing to you full details of consultation with managers and locations of meetings to ensure residents’ homes are not impacted in any way. Since you do not expect to agree such requests do not expect to receive such requests until your attitude has changed. You ask that we remove any details until alternative venues have been established. I’m afraid the answer to that is no.

Turning to the letter to staff you state that UNISON called off the strike and advised our members to accept the changes to terms and conditions under protest. That is simply not true. You also state that most members of staff were relieved to hear this. That is simply not true. You state that most people understood that making jobs and care services viable meant accepting changes. That is simply not true. You were delighted that staff did accept the changes. Alright, that is true. However you are deluding your self if you think it was for the reason stated. I can advise that it was to maintain employment albeit on reduced terms that staff accepted. Remember, you threatened to sack staff who didn’t accept? Again, I fear, you are deluding yourself if you think that members who voted to strike did so solely to express anger and disgruntlement or that such a vote is not really a vote for strike or that this is just an impulse. Your biggest delusion is that this is somehow a reminder to Fremantle that the cuts to terms and conditions were something of a bitter pill to swallow.

There remains a dispute and virtually all staff accept that. I have made two overtures to try and resolve the dispute. In both cases I have been advised that there is nothing further that either Catalyst, as the architects of the dispute or Fremantle, as the executors of the cuts are prepared to do to improve the terms and conditions of staff to anywhere near that which they once were.

You have told staff who are contemplating going on strike that they will not be paid for the time they are on strike; the unions will make up the wages lost rather than see staff forfeit any more money. You have told staff they will lose a proportion of their accrued holiday pay. I calculate this to be a potential loss of 3 minutes as compared to the 11days you took from staff. You have said that staff who report sick just before or on a day of strike will only be paid and authorized where it is supported by a doctor’s certificate. My understanding of the cut terms and conditions is such that you have already taken the sick pay from them they won’t get anything anyway. Are you now suggesting an improvement? I don’t think staff should be required to produce a certificate unless you will pay for it. Can you confirm that you will?

I trust that by advising staff that it’s okay if they don’t want to strike they can tell their manager will be the extent to which you will try and convince members of both unions not to strike. I hope that there will not be repeat of the type of aggression used in the past to staff regarding this dispute. Perhaps you would care to confirm that in writing to me.
Yours sincerely Eddy Coulson UNISON REGIONAL ORGANISER

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Postal workers fight back...................

I am greatful that unlike my ancestors in the 19th century
I have not had to make the sort of sacrifices they made to enjoy things we now take for granted e.g. annual leave, national pay scales, health and safety, sick leave ........

On the few occasions I have had to take strike action there are one group of workers who by an act of solidarity have raised the morale on picket lines.........those are our Postal workers who refuse to cross our picket lines!

Tomorrow they are taking strike action for more details go to

Unless there is a change in policy in relation to Pay............local government, health workers could be joining them on picket lines in the autumn along with teacher unions and civil servants.

So if you pass a Postal workers picket don't walk by........stop and offer support

Incredible as it sounds but it is true. Fremantle Chief Executive has already started with the strong arm tactics claiming these meetings would have a impact on the delivery of care in the settings?

How about cutting terms and conditions of care workers in residential and day care settings? I think everyone would believe this sort of act is more likely to compromise delivery of care!

Once again Fremantle you misjudge the mood of your work force by your decison to prevent these meetings taking place. You demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of their professionalism. Your staff don't just see this as an issue over terms and conditions. From the outset they have raised the very serious issue that bringing down terms and conditions will impact on care standards. To suggest that staff would abandon the care of the residents and service users to attend a Trade Union is insulting.

You inherited experienced, well trained caring staff team who chose to work with this client group not for money but because they wanted to put something back into their community. They were never going to be well paid, but your decision to take the bread from their mouths and the mouths of their families is fundamentally unacceptable.

BOTH Trade Unions both locally, regionally and nationally are not going to walk away from this campaign.

There is growing support for our campaign from across all the major public sector Trade Unions.

You still have a choice (our members have had no choice) ......start talking to our lead negotiators

This campaign is only just begining...................

Monday, June 25, 2007

Barnet UNISON meets BUCKS UNISON - Fremantle

After Dave Prentis introduced the Fremantle care workers to National delegate conference, BUCKS UNISON came to speak with us.

BUCKS is where Fremantle originated. A management buy out more than 15 years ago

30 plus homes for older people/learning difficulties were taken over by Fremantle.

Unfortunatley for our members in Barnet Fremantle wanted to expand and saw an opportunity in Barnet.

Any way we had a good chat with BUCKs UNISON and compared notes!.........we will be working a lot closer with the branch over the next 12 months................

Fremantle Strike ballot result

95 % of our members have voted to take strike action in response to the horrendous cuts in pay.....with a 4 year pay freeze on top!

Fremantle care workers were guests at last weeks National delegate conference

General Secretary Dave Prentis pledged the full support of UNISON's resources to their campaign.

Fremantle care workers received a standing ovation from the conference platform and all the delegates.

Fremantle's attacks on our members has been given national exposure.

Delegate after delegate queued up to give personal messages of support to our members and pledging financial support to them if they have to take strike action.

We are producing our own Support Fremantle care workers DVD.

In the interim you can see the broad cross section of support for the campaign at the following links

Keep checking this BLOG as details of the first day of strike action will be out soon

Monday, June 11, 2007

Barnet UNISON speaking at the TUC’s first birthday unionlearn celebration

It was a great honour for our branch to be asked to speak at the TUC’s unionlearn celebration at TUC headquarters in Congress House.

Brendan Barber the TUC General Secretary & Alan Johnson (one of the 6 MPs standing for the Leadership of the Labour party) were the high profile speakers.

However the thing I value most at these events is meeting other activists, listening to their stories, I always learn something which we can use in our branch.

For Carmen it has become familiar experience speaking at UNISON conference, Award ceremonies etc but for Susan it was her first experience. Although she said she was nervous beforehand, she gave a very good account of the work we have done and want to continue to do for staff working in Barnet. Skills for Life is now the cornerstone of our branch’s business and we are reaping benefits of increasing membership and most importantly seeing tangible differences to people’s lives.

Its great stuff if you haven’t tried it yet then don’t delay contact Carmen or Susan on 0208 359 2088

Finally, I want to thank you to two people who have supported our branch from the begining of this journey. Les Perkins and Richard Soer, they have been supportive and enthusiatic about Learning and the opportunities it brings to staff and UNISON. Sorry about the picture Richard I am sure you weren't taking 40 winks!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Fremantle care workers campaign continues

Fremantle care workers ballot for industrial action began on Friday 8 June 2007. They had previously been balloted in March 2007 but the strike was postponed due to Fremantle issuing a legal action literally days before the start of the action. It really is time this Labour government repealed the anti-trade union legislation!

Anyway back to Fremantle. Because of the postponement care workers have had their pay cut in some cases up to 25%. It is bad enough having to deal with increases in food, fuel bills, rent, petrol, council tax, rent, mortgages without having to absorb such cuts in pay.

The other evening a friend of mine was talking to me about residential and nursing care. He was having to find somewhere for both his parents. He has not had any dealings with social care before and was horrified by the standards of care on offer. 98% of social care is now provided by the private and voluntary sector. Taking it out of public control and democratic accountability was supposed to deliver improvements and costs!

Poppycock! put it mildly. If you asked social workers whether they would place a relative in a residential/nursing home over 90% of them would say no. Care standards were supposed to be more vigorous. This was the ‘sop’ to those of us who opposed sell off of social care. But the inspections are ‘toothless’ and have very little power.

In terms of training for staff. The market has led to an exploitation of migrant workers in social care. Everyone knows private agencies have banks of staff who will be working under assumed names for other agencies. Looking at the poverty wages they pay it is not surprising that these staff work incredible long hours. BUT is it good for service users and carers?


So, back to Fremantle. We are running this campaign because it is time to make a stand. It is imperative that we reverse the decision made on 1 April 2007. Fremantle care workers have been pushed into poverty all because of poor financial management. That’s right. We never invited Fremantle to Barnet they came of their own free will. Probably the prospect of getting their hands on 11 properties in prime locations in leafy Barnet helped matters.

So they got the maths wrong… why steal the money out of the mouths of their loyal well trained care staff? Claiming they need more money is nothing new to Fremantle they were at it in Milton Keynes in 2003. So as in Milton Keynes why not hand the contract back Fremantle?

Our branch fully intends to support this campaign, we have the support of both London UNISON region and the General Secretary Dave Prentis. We will be calling on our UNISON colleagues in ALL the service groups. Furthermore we will take our case back to Parliament. Our Fremantle Stewards committee will be send out letters to all Labour leadership candidates on Tuesday 12 June 2007.

Our ballot closes 2. Friday 22nd June with the first day of action possibly starting Thursday 5th July

Finally little things make a difference. If you are able to access email please send messages of support to the Fremantle care workers to
Branch Secretary of Barnet UNISON

School staff pay!


In 2004 as branch secretary I made a decision approved by the branch executive to go out to Barnet schools. We made two successful regional pool
bids to help support our recruitment campaign in schools. We have 120 Schools in Barnet and it took nearly 2 years before I was able to visit almost all of them.

I hadn’t been in a school in almost 20 years before I started this campaign. Whilst I did see some evidence of good practice in schools, it was patently clear our members are not being paid for the work they are doing. Their roles are rapidly evolving, hence the demand for better training and financial remuneration. But we still have to fight for every single penny!

Whilst my memories of negotiating with my Head when I was at school are still vivid in my mind, it was quite clear who has the power in the schools. The last 3 years negotiating and representing in schools has opened my eyes as to how much work is needed in schools.

It really does help our teaching union colleagues to have nationally agreed terms and conditions. Our members don’t understand why they don’t have them and it is exasperating that in the current climate of Trust/Academies we are having to fight on a school by school basis to improve the terms and conditions for our members.

So, I welcome the news that there appears to be a shift in government policy. Discussions about a National Pay & Grading structures appears to moving a step closer. However there is still a lot of hard work to do BUT it is start…..

If you working a Barnet School and want a visit from our Lead Schools UNISON officers, please ring the UNISON office on 0208 359 2088 or email or

Adult Social Services - Big changes ahead

Major changes for staff, service users and carers are on their way in Barnet.

The Councils proposed changes are a direct response to the Government While paper ‘Our health, Our care, Our say’ for details on UNISONs response to individualised care budgets and service user’s choice go to

I would strongly recommend that any UNISON members working in social services read this report. Promoting greater choice is something we must always support but this is not unconditional. The above report quite rightly raises significant issues which need to be addressed if this new direction is going to serve the interests of service users.

In terms of members terms and conditions this paper presents further challenges (as if we don’t have enough already?). We need to know what the challenges are in order to respond swiftly and effectively. It is essential that we have workplace stewards across all of social services in order we can communicate effectively as & when the consultation over the new service begins. If you do not have a steward in your workplace, please contact the UNISON office on 0208 359 2088 and our social services convenor will arrange to visit your team.

The branch secretary & social services convenor will be leading the negotiations on behalf of social services staff. We will be seeking permission for members to attend workplace meetings to discuss the proposals. If you have any questions please direct them to

Please note the recent success of Social Workers in Surrey

It just shows what you can do when everyone stands together

Barnet UNISON supporting launch of All Visible Minority Ethnic Group (AVMEG)

Thursday 31 May so the Launch Of Barnet Council's NEW All Visible Minority Ethnic Group (AVMEG) in Partnership with Barnet UNISON.

The event was held at the Emerald Suite, North London Business Park on Thursday 31 May 2007.

The Group is open to all minority ethnic council staff, including staff that are not members of the union.

The Executive Director of Resources, Nick Walkley, spoke positively about the Councils willingness to engage with the group and gave his committment to make sure the group is fully supported and resourced (or else Mary will be chasing him! Editors joke).

Mary Pierre Harvey provided an inspiring and informative speech on her work in Richmond and her work with UNISON. Mary has offered to meet Nick in 6 months time to see what progess has been made!

David Netia followed with an engaging, challenging speech on the power of indivivuals but more importantly the power of groups working/coordinating together.

It was a packed out meeting, clearly demonstrating an eagerness to see what the group can achieve. Questions from the floor clearly reflected the need fo rwork to be done. It is to be hoped that the group will avoid the pitfalls of other such groups and become more than a talking shop. Members of staff clearly want to see tangible change within Barnet Council.

AVMEG will encourage and support the development and career progression of staff within the council. Helping to ensure that the views and perspectives of all minority ethnics groups are reflected in policies, procedures and service delivery. It will build closer links with other minority ethnic staff networks in Barnet and organise social events.

The Launch marks 18 months of discussions with the Executive Director & Barnet UNISON to establish this group. Partnership working is an overused phrase in local government but in this case there has been a sharing in resources. Our branch is committed to seeing an end of discrimination in the workplace and if this group contributes to this goal then our resources and efforts will be more than well spent.

Discussions are taking place next week with regards future resourcing of the group and I hope to hear Mike Omezi report back on the outcome.

For more information please contact Mike Omezi on 020 8359 2199 or email:

Housing, Housing, Housing

Ground breaking news……Gordon Brown is finally seeing what we have been saying for years see article
This article marks a significant shift in the Labour Party despite the fact that the 4th option has been repeatedly passed at Labour Party Conference over the last few years. We have heard that all the contenders for the deputy leader of Labour Party elections support the 4th option. BUT it important we move from support to action.

In London more than anywhere else the need for Council housing can not be greater. The Housing Association experiment has simply not worked. Decent Housing is the cornerstone of any democratic country’s policy. Decent Housing fosters healthy communities, this isn’t rocket science. Running down Council housing by denying money to refurbish or simply add to the stock has been a disaster for our inner city communities. Blackmailing Councils by denying them funds unless they sell them off has to be the most destructive polices in the last 50 years!

BUT we still have a chance to turn our inner cities into to healthy communities and we must take it now before it is too late. Councils must be allowed to build Council Housing. Property prices continue to spiral out of reach for many in our communities. Low income families, young people, key workers must have access to Decent Housing.

Finally let’s finally dump the term ‘affordable housing’. Affordable to who? This piece of Government spin has had it’s day, let’s support our communities and see a new era of decent Council housing stock. It is after all what our communities deserve.

What can you do?
Sign the e-petition at Downing Street encourage others to sign too to: "provide the 'Fourth Option' of direct investment in council housing… bring all homes up to at least the government's Decent Homes Standard by 2010 and also build a new generation of decent, affordable and secure council homes for rent".

National Pay - where are we?

Pay Award
Thanks to everyone who sent in their views on the Pay talks. I understand that there is a meeting with the negotiators week commencing 11 June 2007.

Clearly this is a crucial time for Local Government workers as 2% is a pay cut.

Is it just me? or is everything is going up? from your weekly shop, fuel bills, council tax, rent, mortgage payments!

Year on year pay cuts places local government workers under incredible pressure. This in a country which professes to be the 4th or 5th largest economy?

What is being done to build a campaign across all the public sector trade unions?

Well, it appears quite a lot.

Our colleagues working in Health voted in favour of taking strike action at their UNISON Health conference 4/5 weeks ago. See link

Even the Royal College of Nursing hardly known for their militancy are gearing up for industrial action if Brown insists on implementing the Pay cut!

Communication Workers Union the Postal Workers union
have voted unanimously for strike action

Public & Commercial Services union (PCS) are campaigning hard and have already started strike action over pay & are calling for action across all the public sector trade unions

NUT Campaign – The teachers union are building up the pressure on their campaign on pay

In March when Gordon Brown published his comprehensive spending review, Brendan Barber TUC General Secretary had this to say

What does this all mean?
Clearly all the Public Sector unions are keen to take up the fight to protect those members from this pay cut orchestrated by Gordon Brown. However there is still time for negotiations and it is likely any talks of officially balloting members is unlikely to be earlier than September 2007.

With the news that UNISON are supporting Brown’s leadership one can hope that this is a signal that UNISON have some inside information that he can deliver for UNISON members.

It is with this in mind that I think all public sector employees seek answers from th eLabour party. What better opportunity than to challenge those standing for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party. UNISON members may want to particularly direct responses to Alan Johnson as he is being supported by UNISON so send questions to by and clicking on one of the candidates pages

I believe it is important to keep sending messages from our members to our negotiators so Your comments on Pay which we publish and pass on to UNISON to publish.

Lastly keep up to date on National Pay talks by going to the UNISON web site

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

National Pay talks..........

National Pay talks.............Hollywood ending? about short notice...............we sent out this to as many members as possible and hope to be able to respond to the call from our negotiators for feedback.....

If you haven't responded then send an email to before Friday afternoon.

Fremantle Care Workers campaign rolls on!