Saturday, June 28, 2008

Barnet UNISON on!

The pace of change is frightening on at the following links.......

Super Hero - Super Councilworker descends on Barnet Council!

Super Council worker has heard about the threat to our members livelihoods, he has heard about our top class reputation of public services…..he knows Barnet Council workers over the last five years have lost work colleagues through redundancies, taken on more work, not had a pay rise, yet still find the energy and professionalism to provide an excellent service to the community.

When I first spoke to him he was at first confused, then angry that staff should find themselves facing ‘Privatisation world !’, so soon after achieving Four Star status for Barnet Council.

‘Privatisation world' is no Disney adventure for the staff and it certainly does not deliver value for money for local tax payers and service users! We only have to look at our former Council colleagues who were handed over to Fremantle to see what can await those services privatised!

Check out what they are having to deal with!

Fear not Barnet UNISON members Super Council worker has agreed to personally intervene……….where and when I can not divulge…….however look out for his symbol…………..

“DON’T PANIC……DON’T PANIC…..Barnet UNISON members!”

Don't Panic......sounds easy when he says it........

On Monday 30 June I begin the process of consulting with as many members as possible over ‘The Future Shape of Barnet Council’.

Over the coming months I will be setting up meetings across workplaces to listen to members concerns and suggestions.

It is important that I make it clear the Barnet UNISON is committed to defending keeping public services under democratic control. Our position is consistent with our National UNISON’s Positively Public campaign

You can view UNISON’s response here

View a short video on ‘Making Local Services count’

In the next few weeks members will be receiving a short questionnaire. I need to understand where members are in terms of the consultation. There has been an awful lot of jargon about what ‘The Future Shape means, so it is understandable members may choose to ignore or pay scant attention to the consultation process.

This would be a dangerous position to take, and it is why I want to speak to as many members as possible. You work for the Council, you know your service
If the penny has not dropped yet…all Council Services could be facing privatisation within 3 years!

Check out this story on the BBC

In less than six months time a proposal will be submitted to the Council’s Cabinet Committee (3 December 2008)

So make sure you find time to come along to one of our meetings, if you want to ask a question please email me at

Make sure you complete the questionnaire!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stop the Fascist BNP - Barnet UNISON

Fighting against an unpredictable swirling wind, me and Branch Secretary John Burgess somehow managed to carry the massive Barnet UNISON banner all the way from Tower Bridge to Trafalgar Square on Saturday. We were on a national march and parade against fascism and racism organised by the groups ‘Unite Against Fascism’ and ‘Love Music Hate Racism.’ The prime focus of the march was to raise protest against the British National Party and their recent relative success in gaining a seat in the Greater London Assembly, polling a worrying 5.33% of the overall London vote last May. We estimate that between 10-15,000 people took part in the march, and the array of banners from different unions across the country shows not only that there is a real shared concern over the rise of the BNP, but also brings hope that there is the strength in numbers and will power to stop them. There was even a banner all the way from Glasgow UNISON branch! Spurred on by music and chants from various rap artists and drum bands, the march itself had a positive atmosphere, with people from all ages and races joining in as the march gathered pace.

So why does Barnet UNISON feel it necessary to represent their opposition to the BNP?

The most common accusation levelled against the BNP is that their support base consists largely of violent racists. The sort of people you would not want to meet walking the streets at night, especially if you are not white! Stories were told to us at the climax of the march of a girl who had set up an anti-racist group in her university. She was followed home and harassed one night by two white men identifying themselves as BNP supporters. Nick Griffen, leader of the BNP, is facing charges of incitement of religious hatred. UNISON opposes racism, sexism and homophobia, and strives for equality of treatment in the workplace and in society. The BNP argues that an anti-immigration policy does not make them racist, but looking at certain sections of their support base it is evident that there is a dark racist undertone to their existence.

The corner-stone of the BNP’s ideology is routed in a belief that society’s problems come from differences in race and culture, and that we are already seeing the beginning of what Enoch Powell famously pronounced in 1968 as ‘rivers of blood.’ Nick Griffen predicts that in the next three years, as the economy takes a downturn, we will see ‘peace walls’ constructed between ethnic communities within towns, as the point of frustration between whites and the non-whites reaches tipping point. UNISON opposes this ideology in its entirety. The success and diversity shown at Saturdays march only goes to show that London is a tolerant multi-cultural city, that is all the better for it both socially and economically. Instead the route of society’s problems comes from a lack of true equality of opportunity. Poverty and a growing sense of inequality in a more neo-liberal profit driven society leads people to crime and increases job insecurity. This is why Barnet UNISON is fighting for public sector service, and is vehemently opposed to the BNP’s racial arguments.

Under the BNP Britain would be a fascist based society. The party proposes to halt immigration full stop, and then send all those who are not in their terms ‘indigenous’ to Britain back to their ethnic countries. Such a policy is comparable to the likes of Hitler’s Nazi party and their extermination of the Jews, Poles and Socialists. Certain sections of the BNP publicly deny the holocaust’s existence, dreaming that it was a socialist conspiracy! Fascism requires seizing unqualified amounts of central power, and this would inevitably result in the destruction of trade unions as layer by layer of citizen protection is peeled back. This would be the only way the BNP could ever achieve its proclaimed goals. UNISON will fight for its survival and the right of workers to assemble into a trade union. Parties advocating fascist means are natural enemies of trade unions.

For the first time ever the BNP stood a candidate in Barnet in the May elections. They received around 120 votes. They have promised to stand again in the European Parliament elections next year. We must make sure that Barnet is kept clean from both the sort of racism that goes along with the BNP and the dangerous, divisive way of thinking in its policies and political means.

Ben Ritchie

Lango meet Dave, Heather and Jean at UNISON Conference

Last week Lango managed to meet up with UNISON’s General Secretary Dave Prentis and the National Secretary Heather Wakefield. Both Dave and Heather gave a commitment to come down and meet Fremantle Care workers on the picket lines. Jean Geldart former Tower Hamlets Branch Secretary and Service Group Executive member for Local Government said Lango and the Fremantle Care workers were an inspiration to UNISON members across the country and promised full support with the campaign.

Maggi Myland reports back on re-grading in Learning Difficulties Services

‘Modernising’ of In-House Service for Adults with Learning Disabilities.

What started as a relatively small number of staff at a Day Centre with queries about their pay scales /grades and discrepancies amongst staff doing the same tasks at different pay scales ; mushroomed into a total re-structure (modernization) of the whole Service including residential, respite, supported living and community support provisions. This will have implications for some 300 staff including ‘As and When’

Over several months, Barnet UNISON and GMB have worked collaboratively with Management and HR colleagues to Job Evaluate all the new Role Profiles.
We are happy to report that this complex process is nearly completed.
However there are more formal Council procedures involved; there is a DPR [Delegated Powers report] to be signed off and then those staff who remain in their substantive posts will be getting confirmation of their Scale points etc. Other members of staff that have been ring –fenced and have to be interviewed for their new posts will follow and then finally there will be adverts for those remaining unfilled posts in the new structure.

Eventually all the staff involved will be getting their new contracts and perhaps more importantly their new pay rates just as soon as all the necessary processes are completed.

Hopefully staff will feel that the unavoidable time delays have been worthwhile and Barnet has an In-House Service for vulnerable adults that is more streamlined, creative and rewarding to be a part of.

University student starts two month placement with Barnet UNISON

My name is Ben Ritchie and I will be working with Barnet UNISON during the summer on a number of projects. I am a student studying law and politics in my second year at Cardiff University, and want to use my summer to gain an insight into the work of trade unions. In todays increasingly globalised and profit driven society, where jobs are more insecure than ever before, it is fundamental that trade unions such as UNISON protect vulnerable employees and public services. Maintaining and expanding membership is a priority in order to be listened to, and I will be researching and reporting into ways trade unions can engage their younger members. I will also be devising a presentation ready to take into secondary schools to raise student awareness of the practicality of joining trade unions once they leave school. Besides from this I will also be assisting around the office, taking calls, and looking at improving communication with our members.
My time at Barnet Unison looks set to be challenging and exciting!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Barnet UNISON Branch Secretary a stalking horse in the next US Presidential election 2008 ?

Move over Obama....move over McCain

Incredible but seeing is believing..............readers will remember a story linking the Branch Secretary with George Bush last year

But this latest sensational scoop demands answers!

Life Long Learning Coordinator Susan Timthong reports....

I am excited and happy to inform you all that as from the 5th June, I became a full-time Lifelong Learning Coordinator after the retirement of my former Job-share Carmen Bruno. Carmen worked for 3 years as a part-time learning Coordinator, with the assistance of Barnet UNISON she helped organise the setting up of Return2Learn and training of more than 400 staff throughout Environmental, Customer Care services. I will miss working with Carmen, I have learnt a lot from her and I wish her a very happy retirement.

This is a very exciting and challenging opportunity for me to continue to promote and provide learning opportunities for staff and also create new ones. If you were at NLBP,
Mill Hill Depot or Barnet House during Learner Week ( 19th May-22nd May) you will have seen me promoting courses and giving away freebies in the Atrium and on the CONEL Interactive Bus at NLBP, on the Rolling Base Bus at Mill Hill Depot and in the UNISON Office at Barnet House. It was good to see these events supported by Managers and staff alike.

At the moment I am in the process of setting up our next Communication Skills and ICT courses which will start on the 24th and 25th of June and run one day a week for five weeks. The communication Skills course will run on a Tuesday and the ICT course will run on a Wednesday, both will be taught a Mill Hill Depot. There is still time if you would like to attend one of these courses, call me on 0208 359 5175/07950209900/ or email me at or

During the school summer holiday I will be running courses for coach escorts and schools catering staff.

From September onwards we will be providing more Communication Skills and ITC courses to include school staff, progression for staff that have taken a course and would like to achieve a higher level and also English language courses for staff. Future Communication Skills course content can be designed and tailored to meet the requirements of a Service Area. Moreover, there should also be opportunities to vary the venue and timing of courses subject to a minimum number of attendees. For more information please contact me on the above numbers/email addresses or if you see me at NLBP or Mill Hill Depot stop me and ask me. I’m always available (subject to limitations; I like to eat and drink and sleep at times, and yes, I’ve got home responsibilities too which means I do spend some time at home or in Tesco’s)

Well, my final word is don’t put off today what you can do tomorrow because tomorrow you might miss out on a great opportunity.

Susan Timthong
Lifelong Learning Coordinator

Nursery Nurse Campaign – Get in Touch!

I was overwhelmed as to how many Nursery Nurses came to the meeting on May 15th 2008. All volunteering to help progress the Nursery Nurse re-grading campaign.

We discussed the work done by Barnet UNISON so far: the research we have done into your role, the impact of The Early Years Foundation Stage on your job content and responsibilities. The volunteers have added to it. They were as alarmed as myself to the lack of understanding and recognition about your job role by HR and senior management, As a result of the background work we have done a more favourable Job Description has been drawn up and has been circulated to those present at the meeting for consultation.

Should you get a call from a Nursery Nurse from another school, please call them back as it is one of the volunteers who is adopting your school to help with the campaign. Their work and support will be crucial, especially if we have to take strike action next term to get a fair deal for you.

There is progress but then there is London Borough of Barnet progress! Now we are organized, no more delays, no more stalling! As a Nursery Nurse or organising steward, should you want to get involved in the fair deal for nursery nurses campaign forward your details including email addresses and mobile no. to me at The Nursery Nurse Campaign,
UNISON Office, Building 4, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP, or email us on
Susan Dunning

Schools staff - Increments did you get yours.......?

Over the last few years it has been clear that there needs to be greater transparency in terms of pay for support staff in schools.

Quite often staff confuse grades and increments.

For the purposes of this exercise the grade for this member of staff is spinal column point (also known as an increment) 10 to 13. This member of staff was appointed at SCP 10. Each April she moves up an increment until she reaches the top of her grade. In this case it is SCP 13.

I have heard too many cases of staff remaining on their increment and not moving up through their grade. We want to make sure that every one of our members is receiving the correct pay for the work they are doing.

Please check what your grade is. If you don’t know write to your Head for a copy of your contract. If that doesn’t work, please contact the UNISON office on 020 8 359 2088/2090 and ask to speak to Susan Dunning or Tracey Lowe our UNISON officers for schools or email

Maggi Myland Social Services Convenor reports from Conference...

Sandra Jones,First time delegate to UNISON Local Govt. Conference, representing all the Fremantle ex-Council staff in the Barnet homes.

Quite early on first day of LG Conference, Sunday 15th June, there was a motion about efficiency, cuts and Privatisation. Sandra stood in front of that vast conference hall and spoke about the detrimental effects on the workforce of being outsourced (privatised) by Barnet Council TUPE to Fremantle Trust, a ‘not–for-profit charity’. Workers terms & conditions being drastically slashed; some staff having to take on additional jobs to maintain their family’s life style. She spoke of members already having participated in 5 days of Industrial Action and still this charitable employer will not concede. Sandra told Conference that the Fremantle staff are still fighting for their terms & conditions to be reinstated and asked for support from National, Regional and Branches of UNISON.

At the lunchtime fringe meeting entitled Individual Budgets & Social Care, after the main debate and speakers from Scotland; Sandra again addressed the meeting and spoke emotionally regarding her career in care of the elderly and that there would always be some vulnerable clients who need residential and Day Care.

Susan Dunning Assistant Branch Secretary reports from conference...

I could have spent the whole of my life trying to explain the poor terms and conditions that support staff in school have to work under. It very difficult to convey how oppressive working in schools can be. At the UNISON Local Government Conference the situation was summed up by Paul Holmes the Branch Secretary for Kirklees Council.

“Here at Kirklees UNISON Branch, we don’t refer to education; we don’t call it education anymore. We call the department for people working as support staff in schools as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Department”

Needless to say the crowd went wild. Immediately I thought of all the evil frosty queens who we work for, who if they had the power to turn us to stone they would.

Paul went on to elaborate “the reason why we call it the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Department is because we are tired of hearing - I can’t speak any louder I’m calling you from a cupboard!” How true. I cannot count the number of similar conversations I have had over the short period I’ve worked for UNISON and the delegates not working in schools were genuinely shocked that this was the case.

Time and time again support staff are subsidising the schools they work for with unpaid overtime. Taking pay cuts through reduced hours, but often having to work the original hours otherwise, " it’s the children who will loose out”. The latest situation in schools to hit the headlines is that teaching assistants are being used as unpaid teachers. If you are qualified and appointed at grade 3 under certain circumstances you can do more, if you are grade 4 you can take on more of a teaching role. Outside of these grades you must not. We know it goes on. We know that heads ask this of level 2 staff but they refuse to appoint them at level 3 despite being qualified and the same with staff at level 3 who are qualified and should be appointed at level 4 or HLTA status. We also know heads will deny it.

Many feel that their job security is based on the whim of the head teacher and are afraid to speak out. Though humorous Paul Holmes was bang on the money in describing the lot of many support staff in schools. There are good heads out there, but it’s the bad ones who stand out and bring the standards down.

If this resonates with you Barnet UNISON wants to hear from you, so call us on 020 8 359 2088 0r email
Susan Dunning.

Tracey Lowe Assistant Branch Secretary reports from Conference

As a delegate at this year’s conference it has been inspiring to see the overwhelming support of brother and sister trade unionists across the country for the Fremantle campaign. For me this is what being a trade union activist is all about: standing together to fight for the rights of our members. I would encourage you all to draw strength from the knowledge you have the support in your struggle to regain your terms and conditions from UNISON members all over the country.

Helen Davies Branch Chair reports from Conference

I have been so inspired at the way our delegates to both conferences have been able to argue the case for support for Fremantle workers. Our Fremantle reps have addressed Local Government Conference and National Conference on 3 occasions. They have spoken at meetings for women members, disabled members, black members and various Fringe meetings around the conferences. Each time the case has been put and each time people have responded passionately and warmly to our request for help. Everyone feels the injustice and it is clear Fremantle has become a word meaning meanness and worst practice to workers. The Fremantle campaign means a fight for all working people and this has been understood. Show your support for continuing the fightback. Everyone is watching you and willing you on to success.

Fremantle Convenor...." I open the door.......

"I open the door and the first thing I see is an old person I care for. They look at me and all they want is a smile. And I wonder, can I afford a smile or shall I keep worrying about my bills?” (Lango Gamanga Fremantle Convenor).
Conference has been an eye opener for me. It has been very supportive. The conference brings together UNISON members from all different backgrounds (Health, Local Government, Higher Education etc). I shared with them the experience we have with our employer, Fremantle Trust and they empathise and are willing to support our campaign. We have support from the President and General Secretary of our union and I asked them all to support our campaign to get back our terms and conditions; to put back a smile on the faces of Fremantle workers to we can put back a smile on our residents’ faces – the vulnerable older adults we work with. Each time I shared our experience we had a standing ovation and donations of money. We have had delegates from all over the country pledging financial support and making requests for speakers. Do not hesitate to contact our branch with your own financial difficulties.
Times have been very difficult for us let’s continue the fight for better working conditions and know we have the support nationally of 1,000s of UNISON members.

Lango Gamanga

Standing ovations for Fremantle Care worker UNISON reps

Here are but a few pictures of our Fremantle care workers reps at Conference this week

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

National March against Fascism and Racism

All members please note the folllowing link
For the first time for over 20 years the BNP stood a candidate in the London Borough of Barnet. We now have a BNP GLA candidate( he did not get elected but has announced he will stand at the next elections). It is important that despite their attempts to re-brand themselves, the BNP must be exposed for the politics of hate and division.
Barnet UNISON will be sending the banner down to the march/carnival on 21 June 2008
"March and carnival parade against fascism and racism including floats with top artists performing, marching & samba bands and trade union & student union banners.Saturday 21st June 2008Assemble: 12 noon, Tooley Street, London SE1(behind Greater London Assembly building, near Tower Bridge, nearest underground stn London Bridge).
March to Trafalgar Square, W1"
Please circulate details for the event and come along, bring your families and friends and look out for the Barnet UNISON banner

Monday, June 09, 2008

Future Shape of Barnet Council -UNISON Conference

I have mentioned in previous BLOG posts the challenges facing members of UNISON Somerset County Branch. Next week is the start of UNISON National Conference, this is a motion submitted by Somerset UNISON branch

DRAFT COMPOSITE A STRATEGIC SERVICE DELIVERY PARTNERSHIPS/SHARED SERVICES [Motions 28 and 29, Amendments 28.1, 28.2, 28.3, 28.4, 29.1]
Conference notes that the government is promoting Strategic Service-delivery Partnerships (SSP), Public Private Partnerships (PPP) and the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) in local government. We are concerned that these policies will have a detrimental impact on our members' terms and conditions of employment. The roll out of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health legislation may accelerate these public/private ventures. Conference further notes that changes at local delivery level have the potential to affect more than local government services and members. Health, police and transport authorities are expected to be drawn into local strategic partnerships.

We note there is little evidence that they are more efficient or accountable than directly delivered local government services. We further note the failure of partnerships within the private sector in Bedfordshire and West Berkshire resulted in the "partnered out" services being transferred back to the local authority with huge financial penalties being incurred by the local authority.

One major development in the South West in the course of 2007 has been the creation of a 'joint venture company' (JVC) by Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council and the business and technology company IBM – Avon and Somerset Police are expected to join up in January 2008. This is a strategic service delivery partnership (SSP). It has been named Southwest One. An intention of Southwest One is to offer 'back office' services to other authorities and organisations in the region.

The creation of a framework agreement has created further concerns. 35 public bodies have signed the framework agreement. We are appalled that the agreement can lead to jobs being exported from other public bodies to the JVC without following the procurement and options appraisals and may reduce union involvement in shaping service delivery.

The scope for change in how services are shaped and delivered, offered for example by the creation of the new unitary councils, the working of Local Strategic Partnerships and by the emerging range of SSPs across the country, that may be considered as models by councils, is considerable. It has been reported that a consortia of London Boroughs approached the DCLG about how to achieve efficiencies savings. The DCLG referred them to Southwest One.

UNISON has expressed reservations about the establishment of full partnerships of councils and private companies to develop services, rather than say by fostering shared services between authorities themselves (eg public-public partnerships). Conference notes the lack of evidence to demonstrate that Strategic Service Delivery Partnerships actually benefit service users, the workforce or elected councillors.

Most importantly, UNISON believes that policies and mechanisms must ensure that savings that result from administrative improvements are reinvested in front line services.

UNISON is concerned that overarching partnerships with private companies raise major conflicts with the community culture of local government, for example:

1) local democracy may be compromised;
2) public access to financial information about services may be in conflict with commercial confidentiality;
3) longer term costs are uncertain and out of the control of authorities;
4) staff expertise and commitment may be undermined;
5) commercialised local services may lose their community face;
6) regionalisation may foster growth in the need to travel;
7) likely impact on employment in services and loss of local employment;
8) profits being set aside from public funds and moved away from the local economy;
9) services tending to businesses that only serve those who can afford to pay.

We welcome the fact that branches have accumulated a great deal of experience of the issues that arise and are using the services of organisations such as the European Services Strategy Unit (continuing the work of the Centre for Public Services) who conduct thorough analysis and research on behalf of trade unions and local authorities. The European Services Strategy Unit is documenting the story of Southwest One and is identifying recommendations and other branches have similarly commissioned consultants to challenge outsourcing exercises.

UNISON nationally has commissioned APSE to carry out research to help the union meet the ongoing challenges posed by public service reform across the UK and to promote directly provided services. This project has examined 17 branches involved in major outsourcing across the UK and across sectors. In addition UNISON is reviewing and updating all branch advice on outsourcing and is developing new materials and training courses.

We believe that the continued approach of the government in encouraging outsourcing, privatisation and "partnership working" is detrimental to democracy and accountability within public services.

We believe the increased use of markets, private providers and competition in public services (policies all three main parties appear to support) is alien to the needs of the vast majority of society and gives large corporations extended profits and control.

We oppose the use of commissioning in public services and note with concern that the government is expecting local authorities (and the health service) to commission rather than be direct service providers.

We are committed to the Positively Public Campaign and we believe that "partnering out" is contrary to our own policies.

Conference notes that the issue of shared services has moved up the political agenda but that the union has been slow to provide advice to branches on dealing with this in all its aspects. Conference requests that appropriate advice and training are made available ideally within two months of conference but also that the National Executive Council examines how communications can be improved, so that important issues that are starting to be evident at branch level can be fed back to the national union to ensure that advice and resources are available.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

a) encourage public employers to include participation and information access protocols that ensure transparency, in their procurement options appraisal and policies;
b) continue to develop up to date national, regional and branch information, advice and guidance on the challenging of all new kinds of outsourcing mechanisms and to campaign against all forms of privatisation;
c) develop cross-service strategies to oppose public private partnerships;
d) develop regional and cross-regional strategies to challenge public private partnerships and other outsourcing mechanisms;
e) develop strategies to protect and support members and new starters who are affected by outsourcing;
f) support and advise branches to win in-house provision of services
g) encourage regions and branches to work with supporting organisations such as the European Services Strategy Unit and APSE as part of an overall strategic approach to challenging all forms of outsourcing
h) take this matter forward using the political funds where necessary and call on the part of UNISON known as UNISON Labour Link to campaign against the government’s privatisation and marketisation agenda;
i) campaign amongst all progressive organisations (trade unions, tenants groups, TUC, councillors and MPs) to bring about a reversal of this current government's "direction of travel" in respect of Private Finance Initiative (PFI), Public Private Partnerships (PPP) and the Strategic Service Delivery Partnerships (SSP);
j) report back at the next conference the progress made in the matters raised above;

28 South West Region
28.1 North Cornwall LG
28.2 Scotland Region
28.3 National Executive Council
28.4 Somerset County
29 Somerset County
29.1 National Executive Council

Amendment A.1 (Amendment 28.5)
Insert new point i)

i) call on the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee to launch a formal investigation to assess the performance of Strategy Service Delivery Partnerships;
28.5 Somerset County

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Future Shape consultation four weeks on…..

Last Mondays meeting with Richard Grice (Programme Director) and Nick Walkley (Executive Director of Resources) was useful and provided an opportunity to ask questions about the process and the Trade Unions role over the coming months.

Clearly from the UNISON reports provided on our last BLOG post alternative privatisation models have presented significant issues which I hope that Barnet will avoid.

Whilst researching other Council’s experiences a number of key issues have emerged
Transparency, Accountability, Governance, Employment” all of which will be subject to constant scrutiny from Barnet UNISON.

In –house model
I raised and will continue to raise the fact that the in-house model must be given equal consideration when exploring what and how the Council provides services. In the past in-house inexperience, lack of financial capacity have been used as an excuse to privatise services, Fremantle Care workers campaign is clear evidence of that flawed thinking.

More recently, in Barnet we have seen innovative thinking which has led to ‘Transformation of Service Delivery’ in Resources and Adult Social Services to name but a few examples. Accessing substantial financial investment and partnership working was surely a significant factor in Barnet achieving Four Star status. This ability to transform a service to a high performing service can not be understated and clear local evidence of the high calibre Barnet staff. An independent report by I&DeA entitled Getting better all of the time?
the Executive Summary, point 20 Workforce Development…..
“But significant sections of the local government workforce who are operating on the ‘frontline’ have felt embattled and undervalued. Such staff are vital to effective service delivery. Highly motivated and skilled workforces who are passionate and engaged about optimising customer service and user benefit are a hallmark of high performing organisations. To date capacity building in terms of workforce development has barely scratched the surface. There will need to be much more investment in training and developing the local workforce if transformational changes are really to be achieved.”
Whilst it is true to say that the future is constantly changing this is not a reason to play down the role of high performing in-house services. I will look to see this acknowledged in the consultation process and risk assessment identifying the degree of risk to the Council of losing local experience and expertise.

Employment issues
I took the opportunity to discuss why staff are anxious about the prospects of working for an organisation that would look to make savings out of their terms and conditions. It is not just in the wage packet that concerns staff, but their future Pension. Whilst it is true that the Pension Scheme has gone through some changes, it still is a good Pension Scheme. When an employer starts to erode the pay it has a fundamental impact on the Pension forcast (as Fremantle Care workers have found out). In the past staff transfers have not been robust enough to protect staff, which explains why staff are anxious about possible outcomes of this consultation.

It is my experience that but for an exception of a few senior managers the outcomes for staff transferring out of the Council are poor in relation to their terms and conditions. This will be a key area of scrutiny for UNISON.

In my meetings I have been repeatedly assured that this process is not simply as a result of finances. The test of this will be evidenced by what weighting finances is given for particular models put forward at the Cabinet Committee meeting on 3 December 2008. In discussions so far the reduced shortfall in government funding has been a key factor driving this consultation process. I will be asking that any proposals put forward will include an analysis of whether a change of Government (2010) will result an increase or a decrease in funding for Barnet Council.

Is it a done deal?
I am been reassured that this is not the case and the consultation is genuine. I can understand why staff may think this particularly if they have read the third paragraph in section 2.3.1 of the 6 May 2008 Cabinet report "Work is already been done in scoping development services, where potential for JVC has been identified."
For those of you coming into the consultation process JVC is not a reference to a multinational electrical company but Joint Venture Company. However a JVC could involve a partnership with a multinational company. Just look at the mess in Somerset County

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Fremantle care workers – why they keep on fighting

It is 15 months since Fremantle stole their terms and conditions 1 April 2007 and almost 2 years since the Fremantle care workers campaign began. The Branch has conducted a high profile campaign (reaching a global audience thanks to the efforts of LabourStart) resulting in a successful march and rally in November and a well attended meeting in the House of Commons in December 2007.

Early in 2008 Fremantle care workers had a meeting for members to discuss the future of the campaign. The message from members was clear …..
“We want back what was stolen!”
The Fremantle Stewards Committee were mandated in the meeting to meet with Fremantle to try and reach a negotiated settlement.

Unfortunately Fremantle were very clear, they were not prepared to talk about what was stolen. They believe they have already made enough concessions. (their original proposals were to reduce the hourly rate and increase the working week to 39 hours a week instead of 36 along on top of what they stole from our members last year). In effect everything they gained from Single Status was to be removed at the stroke of a pen!

Following our meeting with Fremantle it was clear members needed to be consulted. The Fremantle Stewards Committee decided to carry out a consultative ballot in May. The ballot was simple. Fremantle said they were prepared to consider reducing the Pay Freeze from 3 years to 2 years (with strings attached). The second part of their offer was to give 3 days annual leave in October 2009 in line with Governments legislation to extend annual leave by 3 days.

The Fremantle Stewards Committee made a recommendation for members to reject this offer with the understanding that rejecting the offer would mean and escalation of strike action.

Fremantles' reaction was predictably aggressive, refusing access to the workplaces and sending their own ballot paper to staff..

“So, in spite of the actions of their employer why are our members so determined not to give up hope?”

Firstly, and it can not be understated the sheer loss in income our members have had to endure has proved devastating. Over the last twelve months the numbers of staff working 60 hours a week either for Fremantle or with a second and sometimes a third employer has increased. The introduction by Fremantle of a 56 hour ‘waiver’ is evidence of the scale of the problem. We are understandably concerned about the number of hours staff are working. However we do not know how widespread this practice is which is why we have written to Fremantle, unfortunately we have not had a reply.

"Care Workers working 56+ hours a week is it safe for staff and residents? "
Is it right that care staff should have to work 56 hours or more to earn a living wage in London? Who reading this can honestly say they would feel comfortable leaving their relative in a home where such practice were common? To be fair to Fremantle this problem is widespread across Social Care provision. As a social worker I can report that very few if any of my work colleagues would feel comfortable leaving a relative in residential care. Radio Four’s Jon Manel recently reported on care for the Elderly. The government last month launched a consultation on how to fund social care. Whatever is decided surely those who must carry out the direct provision of care to the most vulnerable must be well trained and receive a living wage. It is not politicians, commissioners, service providers (well not until they find themselves in a residential or nursing home) who pay the penalty for undermining the provision of social care it is the service users and carers.

It is not just the loss in pay that accounts for why our members do not want to give up hope. It is the knowledge that if they give up their struggle they know that their Pension forecast will drop permanently. Leaving them with the added worry of how they will cope when they retire. This is something Fremantle have not really understood, instead they take refuge behind mind games with our members, accusing the branch ‘of promoting its own views’.

Such poor analysis of this campaign does note bode well, particularly in the context of future challenges facing Fremantle in Barnet. We know that this contract has led to a dispute with Barnet Council. Last year the claim was £8.672 million as it has not been resolved the claim must surely have gone above £10 million. Only three of the planned five new homes have been built. Whatever is going on behind closed doors what is certain is that the contract will surely be re-negotiated. Will the new contract bring an increase in funding for Fremantle? If not will Fremantle come back to our members for more?

No wonder our members are angry and don’t want to give up. UNISON policy is quite clear, organise to resist privatisation and defend our members against attacks on their terms and conditions. Barnet UNISON stands proudly with our member working for Fremantle and will continue to do so as long as they need our help.

John Burgess
Branch Secretary

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Barnet UNISON Newsletter 3 June 2008

For Online version of Barnet UNISON voice June 2008
please go to

UNISON Update on Library Re-organisation

Dear Members
I am sure that you are wondering and worrying about what is happening with the library re-organisation. Unfortunately I have nothing concrete as yet to tell you. The last meeting that UNISON had with senior management was on 24 April where we were told that nothing was to be ruled out with regards to where the necessary savings could be made. We were also informed that a massive six figure staffing budget overspend had been identified and that this was the reason that more posts were likely to be affected by the re-organisation than previously anticipated. UNISON has asked for further detail on the exact figures of the overspend and how this has gone unnoticed and been allowed to happen.

Some of you may well be thinking that if the original proposal put forward by management had gone through and had not been objected to by UNISON members that all would be well, in place and remaining jobs would be safe. Please don’t be fooled into thinking that – we do not believe that your jobs would have been any safer. With such a huge staffing overspend it would have to come to light sooner or later and if not now it would probably have been lumped into the pot under the guise of the annual budget cuts that happen every year around Christmas.

We will have the new proposals soon and now that the overspend has been identified we can hope for an honest and transparent dialogue into the financial implications for the future of our members jobs and our service.

Until UNISON sees the new proposals we are unable to say whether we could recommend acceptance or not, however it remains our position to oppose cuts to frontline jobs. As soon as we hear anything we will inform members as soon as possible. If you have any queries please contact Sue on 8359 2091or Tracey on 8359 2088.
Tracey Lowe - 27 May 08

Individualised Budgets – the UNISON story week 3.

At last UNISON has been given dedicated facility time to deal with this issue as it is of huge importance to so many of our members (and the community as a whole). This facility time began 22.5.08 and we have 2 days/ week.

Already quite a lot has taken place in these 3 weeks. I meet on a weekly basis with Ed Gowan, the project manager, where we discuss where we’re at and the issues being raised. We have managed to establish what I believe is a positive and constructive working relationship such that we can be clear and honest about the problems.

UNISON members in Older Adults made their concerns known, already in the first week of me taking up this role, at a UNISON lunchtime meeting where anger boiled over. New job descriptions and roles are being developed alongside existing ones and not surprisingly members are comparing these and noticing significant discrepancies which is leading to demands for regrading on all current roles. Colleagues there are not prepared to have current care brokers shadowing them until they can get reassurances their own posts are not at risk i.e. care brokers are not going to be used to undermine the need for social workers in Adults teams. UNISON has already approached the management team for a statement regarding this which should be coming out imminently (if it is not already out). We have already indicated the need for reviewing the grades and job evaluations of workers in this service area in relation to the care broker job description.

Similarly at a meeting with care brokers frustration was expressed by them at not being able to work to their job description. They believe they are being under used. They had applied for their jobs with the understanding they would be providing a direct service to service users. So far this has not materialised. Mencap is providing the care brokerage service for the pilot in Barnet. Our care brokers are frustrated they have not been invited to shadow this, nor are they being asked to do any of the work coming from the pilot.

It seems that the information on progress and where the restructuring is going is patchy when it filters down the ranks (as it were). Everyone seems to have a different idea on what is going on. This is exemplified by the way in which at the UNISON meeting with Older Adults people were wondering how Leo Boland’s comments on the Future Shape of the Council fit in with the Individualised Budgets project. On the whole people are tending to see privatisation written all over it.
UNISON is unable to allay those fears. However, the Individualised Budgets project is in and of itself not a tool to deliver privatisation although it is easy to see how this may happen. On the union side we will be continuing to argue that for reasons of good quality, accountability and better workforce employment conditions services should be delivered in-house. Where we are unable to maintain this position we will be trying to get the best deal possible for our members.

I have also spent some time contacting UNISON reps in the 13 local authorities which have been piloting The Individualised Budgets Scheme. Generally I am told the pilot scheme has worked well although there are no official reports. There are concerns how in-house services will be affected e.g. home care and day services. In Manchester the care brokerage service is being run by in-house staff who help service users set up care once they have their direct payment.

We believe there has to be coherence in the information (at least) in order not to alienate the workforce right from the start. One role the union can play is contributing to this coherence. We also need for colleagues to let us know what they think, state their concerns, wishes and also where you see things developing in a positive way in order to get to grips with what is going on. If we are deluged with requests/ comments etc then so be it. It is possible we will be unable to deal with every single point but they would be valued as I think they would contribute to a greater understanding of where we’re at and what questions need to be answered. I look forward to hearing from you.

In addition I will be organising meetings with other groups throughout Adult Social Services.

You can also approach: Tom Mahoney, Liz Thomasson, Maggie Guy and Peter Wright.

Helen Davies:

Pay Matters Ready Reckoner TRY IT OUT!

All you need to do is fill in the highlighted purple section press 'return' key and it will calculate the yearly increase based on 2.45% pay cut.
You will need to scroll along at the bottom to see all relevant sections

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Future Shape of Barnet Council - Week three........

Last week (Richard Gryce) took up the post of Programme Director looking at the possible options for Barnet Council Services. I have a meeting with Richard and Nick Walkley on 2 June 2008. It is clear from the feedback on the Online Forum that there are a number of concerns which need closer scrutiny such as pay, pensions, job security. I have begun to look at where Councils have adopted some of the possible options raised in the Cabinet Paper 6 May 2008.

For those of you with access to PC’s here are a number of reports in the following Councils





West Berkshire

I noted a number of staff have made comments about jargon and the need for “plain English” in relation to the Cabinet report. Over the coming months I hope to address some of these issues (looking at the clock ticking on the Barnet UNISON BLOG it is worrying to see we are only184 Days, 10 Hours, 40 Minutes, 05 Seconds….. to go before the Chief Executive presents his report to the Cabinet Committee on 3 December 2008
(make a note in your diaries for this date; I hope to see some of you!)

Let’s start with Strategic Delivery Partnerships (SSP’s)

The Government are pushing these Partnerships in the Public Sector. A key document to read is the Audit Commissions “Strategic Service Delivery Partnerships "For Better or Worse”

see link

“Not all SSPs will achieve the benefits sought. Similar collaborative arrangements in the private sector have a failure rate estimated to be as high as 60 to 70 per cent …..”(a quote from the above report)

Now read a critique by Professor Dexter Whitfield. As you can see from his website Dexter is regularly commissioned by UNISON branches. Our branch is considering commissioning Dexter read his comments on the Audit Commissions report

I expect that staff will be interested in this report……………….
What Frontline staff say about Strategic service Delivery Partnerships

I can imagine that some may think that UNISON has already formed its view on this issue. That would be a fair comment. It is UNISON’s policy to support Public Services and organise against privatisation

UNISON is joining with the TUC to organise the Speak up for Public Services
lobby in Parliament on 9 June 2008

If I find an example of a Joint Venture, Partnership, Privatisation, Arms Length Management Organisation which has not delivered attacks on our members Pay, Pensions and Employment I will publish it in our newsletters and eNEWS bulletins.

Fremantle care workers campaign is about to escalate after our members were balloted on an offer from Fremantle. As you can see for yourself it wasn’t much of an offer.
Would you have accepted it? Would you have expected your Union to support you?

Looking over the numbers of staff who transferred from Barnet Housing department to the ALMO I was shocked to discover that 25% of the staff have gone! Some of them have been privatised and we are busy trying to help our member keep their terms and conditions. Our Lead UNISON rep in the ALMO is busy defending the terms & conditions Barnet Council staff take for granted!

Joint Venture Partnerships
There have been a number of these the one I want to draw member attention to is Somerset. I have been in touch with the Branch Secretary and will hopefully be inviting him to a branch meeting to discuss the horrendous experience they are having.

It is important to make it clear that Barnet UNISON is not just concerned about members terms & conditions but the also the use of Public money, procurement, contract monitoring & governance arrangements. The lessons to learn from a number of the examples we have found so far is TRANSPARENCY. We need to ensure that the consultation is truly inclusive, which allows staff, residents, local politicians the opportunity to scrutinise the proposals.

Barnet Trades Council Newsletter.......

If our national leadership were able to replicate the joint working of our local trade union branches (UNISON(local government, health, Higher Education), PCS, CWU, NUT, UCU, NUJ, RMT in the Barnet Trades Council then Public Sector Pay Awards would be Real Pay Awards and not Pay Cuts......

View our newsletter Online at Barnet Trades Union Council

Fremantle Campaign escalates...............

Barnet UNISON recently carried out a consultative ballot following a proposal from Fremantle.

Fremantle Care Workers overwhelmingly rejected (95.9%) the offer. For more details of the offer and what Fremantle are doing read our latest newsletter

Online at Fremantle Voice June

Fremantle last week sent out a ballot letter to staff. It does not have a closure date and we don’t know who they have sent it to… doesn’t give staff much of a choice…..They also clearly believe that it is the Branch NOT the Fremantle Care Workers who wanting to keep the dispute going.........!...but maybe we are being unfair…take a look for yourself

Fremantle Trust Ballot letter

The Fremantle Stewards committee have written to UNISON London region outlining a comprehensive action plan which includes an escalation in industrial action staring this month. As soon as we have confirmation of the dates we will update our members and supporters.

However, the door remains open to more talks if Fremantle are prepared to put something substantially better than the last offer…………….

Pay Ballot begins USE YOUR VOTE

Not a day goes by without some mention of rising fuel bills, food, mortgages. The offer of 2.45% is simply not enough and the added worry is that if we don’t fight back we could be looking at a similar award for the next THREE YEARS!

Check out our Barnet UNISON Pay Matters presentation on what is at stake

Barnet UNISON Pay Matters presentation
Barnet UNISON Pay Matters PDF
This is why it is important that we support our national negotiators!
Make sure you USE YOUR VOTE….
Talk to your colleagues at work.

Go to UNISON TV to listen to why you deserve a Pay Award

Or view this excellent video by Tower Hamlets UNISON Branch on why we should reject Brown's

Show Brown the RED CARD

We need a big turn out at the ballot box.