Special Local Government Conference Report

by James Thompson Steward, Branch Assistant Secretary

As you will be aware, a decision was taken by UNISON last October to suspend industrial action over pay. Members were balloted over a set of proposals that amounted to a 2.2% pay increase over 2 years. Whilst our members in Kensington & Chelsea overwhelmingly voted to reject the proposals, the overall nationwide result was to accept.

Not only were branches like ours opposed to the pay proposals, we were unhappy about the way negotiations had been Conferencehandled and the lack of any consultation with branches and members before the decision to call-off strike action was taken. We also felt that information given to members regarding the proposals was confusing and did not include the pay figures for London until much later on in the process.

As a result we took a decision to work with other branches to call for a Special Local Government conference to discuss these issues and to try and ensure that members would be involved in key decisions of this nature in the future.

That conference took place in London on 24th march and three delegates from our branch (Sonya Howard, Albert Dornelly and Felicity Scott) attended.

The key outcomes of that Conference are as follows:

  • Any future decision to postpone strike action can only take place after consultation with branches.
  • All future negotiations with the employers over pay, terms and conditions must involve representatives democratically elected by the members.
  • All pay negotiations must be governed by the rules determined by our annual Local Government Conference – as this is a conference attended by ordinary members on behalf of their branches.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – the Conference took a decision not to wait until 2016 for another pay rise and instead to lodge a pay claim for 2015/16 for the full-time equivalent Living Wage rate to be the minimum pay value of the NJC pay spine and for an equivalent flat rate pay increase to be applied to all other NJC pay scale points and NJC related salaries. This would effectively amount to more than £1/hour extra.

The key step forward following yesterday’s conference is that we will now be lodging a new pay claim during an election year rather than waiting twelve months and missing our best opportunity to ensure that local government workers are respected and fairly treated by whoever is elected in May.

 

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Having a Union Rep Can Boost Job Quality

by Grace LewisThis article first appeared in People Management, 13 March 2015

‘Collective voice’ linked to improved employee well-being

Having a union representative in the workplace can reduce employees’ stress levels, improve their work-life balance, and increase their well-being overall, according to academic research.

The paper, Union representation, collective voice and job quality: an analysis of a survey of union members in the UK finance sector, showed that respondents’ perceptions of job quality were more favourable in organisations where an onsite representative was present.

This is important for employers across all sectors, the report said, as higher job quality can lead to higher productivity, and fewer workers quitting their jobs.

More than 3,000 people, across 174 companies were surveyed for the report. A large proportion of the respondents (41 per cent) worked for large banks, while 13 per cent were from large insurance companies.

Union presence in the finance sector – defined as the proportion of employees whose workplace has a union present – stands at 43.3 per cent, relatively high compared to the general population.

In 2004, 24 per cent of workplaces had a recognised trade union, which fell to 21 per cent in 2011. This is a dramatic decrease from 1980 levels when 64 per cent workplaces recognised an independent union.

The joint project from Warwick Business School, Unite trade union, Royal Holloway, University of London and Cass Business School, is due to be published in the journal Economic and Industrial Democracy.

Professor Kim Hoque, of Warwick Business School, joint author of the report, said: “Having a union representative on site seems to help improve workers job quality; this could be an important finding for companies looking to improve productivity as well as conditions for workers.

“Job quality is not only important to the individual worker, but to the organisation or company as well. Job quality has been closely linked to job satisfaction, which in turn has been identified as an important element of higher productivity. It also leads to fewer workers leaving and lower absenteeism, both of which have an economic benefit to the organisation,” he added.

Although respondents’ perceptions of job content, work-life balance and job stress were more positive where union reps were present, the research found no evidence of an association between onsite representative presence and job security.

“This might be seen as unsurprising given that employer concessions to union demands for greater job security may lead to significant additional labour costs in the event of a downturn, hence employers may be particularly resistant to attempts to influence this,” Hoque said.

Hoque added that previous research had shown that a higher level of collective voice inside an organisation had led to higher levels of job quality, and as such, any future moves to weaken the rights of union representatives inside an organisation could be detrimental.

“By boosting job quality via voice effects, onsite union representatives are contributing indirectly towards a range of socio-economic outcomes including: higher overall individual well-being, higher job satisfaction, higher productivity, fewer workers quitting, lower absenteeism, smoother labour market transitions and higher labour market participation rates,” he said.

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Barnet UNISON Fights Outsourcing

UNISON, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, serving more than 1.3 million members, wrote to Barnet Council on 11 March 2015 notifying them of our intention to conduct a strike ballot of the Council workforce. This ballot is a direct response to the five commissioning projects agreed at the 3 March 2105 Full Council which would mean outsourcing of the majority of the workforce.

The Ballot opens 18th March and closes 8th April.

At the infamous Full Council meeting on 3 March 2015, the Conservative Administration voted through the decision toBarnet Banner jpeg explore other options for directly delivering council services. The services involved are as follows:

  • Libraries
  • Adults & Communities
  • Children’s Centres
  • Street Scene services
  • Education & Skills and School Meals

UNISON estimates that this will mean upwards of 80% of the workforce are likely to be working for a different employer. According to a recent Barnet Council committee report there are only 1,466 directly employed permanent staff.

It is important to note that the in-house service option for eleven out of twelve outsourcing projects have been rejected by Barnet Council over the last three years. UNISON has, over the last six years, tried to engage with Barnet Council over the future delivery of council services without success. In-house services, whilst previously being high performing and low cost, have meant nothing.

Barnet Council abandoned its role of directly delivering services when it adopted the mass outsourcing EasyCouncil One Barnet Programme back in November 2010.

We now have first-hand experience of what happens following outsourcing and even councillors of all parties are openly critical of some the services they are receiving from Capita.

The shocking Care Quality Commission (CQC) report on Your Choice Barnet is more evidence of what happens when terms & conditions are cut and are not taken seriously. It is clear from the report that service users were put at risk as a consequence of YCB’s attempts to deliver the seriously flawed One Barnet Business Case.

In committee meeting after committee meeting the public has had to listen to talk of difficult decisions, yet the real difficult decision would be to reject the austerity budget process and refuse to cut and outsource services. Elected members were elected to serve their communities and not impose policies that will see even greater inequalities.

Contrary to the spin that outsourcing protects frontline services and guarantees savings, what all the evidence clearly documents is that the taxpayer ultimately ends up paying the extra costs whilst service quality deteriorates.

Austerity is driving the outsourcing agenda not just in Barnet but across the UK and Europe. Whilst other councils are also considering mass outsourcing Barnet is racing ahead and appears to be in a race with Northampton & Bromley Councils which are also doing the same.

UNISON Branch Secretary John Burgess said:

“Barnet Council staff are an incredible, resourceful & understanding workforce, who have been subjected to unacceptable levels of change and stress. The adoption of the five commissioning outsourcing projects makes it very clear to all staff that the Council is not interested in retaining in-house services. This is an ideological assault on public services and our branch is drawing a line in the sand by declaring this ballot. Austerity politics is driving an anti-in-house services agenda which we reject and are asking our members to reject.”

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RBKC Women’s Self Organised Group (SOG) Report 2015

By Felicity Scott, Women’s Officer

Getting Involved – RBKC Women’s Self Organised Group (SOG)

I was elected as the Branch Women’s Officer in 2014. The first meeting of the women’s SOG took place in March 2014IMAG2824 and we had an attendance of 5 women and 5 women sent their apologies. The follows areas of interest were discussed as possible starting points for the group to focus on:

  • Women’s health
  • Holistic therapies
  • Workplace rights with reference to RBKC policy
  • Women’s network
  • Women’s career advice
  • Domestic Abuse – RBKC and Unison support
  • Financial Help – debt advice RBKC and Unison support on offer

A further lunch time meeting will be held on Tuesday 17th February 2015 at 12.30 until 1.30 in Kensington Town Hall. Sandwiches will be provided. All are welcome! In this meeting we can cover any additional areas of work and decide on what our focus will be in 2015

Unison National Women’s Conference 2014

In February 2014 I attended the Unison National Women’s Conference as a visitor to represent the branch. It was a great experience to learn more about the democratic structure’s within Unison. It was also great to meet other women members both regionally and nationally. Motions ranged from women’s health issues, domestic violence and the disproportional effect of cuts on women. The conference also emphasized the need for joint working across the equality groups for women members who also identify with BME, Disability and LBGT can face multiple forms of prejudice and discrimination. Of particular interest were two motions raising awareness for the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The UN called upon 42 women’s organization to produce a shadow report bringing together issues impacting on the realization of women’s rights under the CEDAW in the UK in order to support the Government to make positive changes in the future. The report highlights key areas where Women’s Rights in the UK have come to a standstill and in fact some are being reversed. The motions which were carried to be taken to National Delegates Conference (NDC) were on women and the housing crisis and ending male violence against women.

Unison National Women’s Conference 2015

The National Women’s Conference 2015 will take places in Southport from 12th-14th February and I will report back to you on this in due course.

Your union needs you!

Please come along to the meeting on Tuesday 17th February so we can talk more about what we want from the women’s SOG in 2015! If you cannot make it please email me or call me, we can always set up another date/time/location

Felicity Scott – Women’s Officer

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Branch Secretary’s Report 2015

Branch Annual Reports to AGM

Once again 2014 proved to be yet another challenging year for the Branch with an unprecedented amount of personal cases, the pay dispute, and the endless round of nonstop reorganisation, redundancies, outsourcing and services cuts. There appears to be no end in sight for austerity measures and many of the above are indeed a direct cause of such polices with members jobs being the ultimate collateral damage.

The Autumn Statement is a declaration of war on public services and the workforce which delivers them: £35bn of28 public sector cuts that have already happened and another £55bn of cuts are to take place by 2020. This means spending cuts on a colossal scale … taking total government spending to its lowest level as a proportion of national income since before the last war. So far we have seen a loss of over 500 jobs at Kensington and Chelsea Council since 2010. One of the consequences of this is that the remaining staff are forced to worked harder than ever – many putting in 100s of hours of unpaid overtime.

The Trade Union movement does stand in the way of the “Austerity” propaganda which is why the coalition government are constantly seeking to restrict the rights of the workers through anti-trade union legislation and attacks to union facility time and restricting people’s rights to Employment Tribunals.

We have seen significant fight backs in Barnet council against mass privatisation and CARE UK workers in Doncaster in dispute over draconian wage cuts. UNISON has a proud record of resistance and we will continue to lead the way with our members support to protect our jobs, services and conditions.

It is true that no report can cover the full extent of the Branch’s work so I will highlight the key issues.

Pay

The Branch started to organise an effective campaign in early in 2014. We staged a protest outside the Town Hall dressed as Victorians to highlight the actual extent that wages have fallen. This was well publicised and followed up with stalls and three branch meetings ensuring that the day of action on 10th July proved to be a great success. We even made the pages of the Evening Standard.

After a drawn out process an increased offer was made by the employer with some gains for the lowest paid members. The Branch overwhelmingly rejected the proposal and voted to continue the dispute as did the majority of London members, feeling that the offer did not go far enough to help redress the long standing issue of a fair pay increase. The national union results were overall for acceptance of the proposal. This provoked a call for a Special Pay Conference to debate processes of how the settlement was reached and to look to future pay claims. This is to take place on the 23rd March and we will keep you updated of any further progress.

Pensions

There will be some further changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) in April 2015. The first is that trade unions are to be included to participate on the newly established pension boards later this year. UNISON is currently seeking confirmation about this from the Council and will inform you of the outcome.

The second is instead of a pension, members can opt to take a cash lump sum. This is concerning not just for the individual who will suffer tax detriment and plethora of money investors who will no doubt be circling like sharks, keen to offer advice. It also could have major implication for any future scheme.

75% of all local government employees are currently members of the LGPS. As the employer significantly contributes towards the scheme it will always outstrip any private scheme. All members should consider joining the LGPS to both maintain it and to save it for the future.

On a different note CAPITA who have been administrating the Kensington and Chelsea fund will be replaced in the near future by Surrey county council.

Outsourcing/privatisation

We are in the process of negotiating a recognition agreement with AMEY for staff who TUPED across from facilities management. We have continued to recruit new members and now a local representative. Several issues with AMEY from redundancies to grievances most now resolved satisfactorily. AMEY continue to expand outside of tri borough, with contracts in Camden and Haringey.

The Managed Services debacle is the transfer of some HR, and financial services including pay roll being contracted out to BT. The implementation date has now moved four times causing no end of stress and inconvenience for those staff involved. It should be on track for the 30 April however it has cost much more than originally stated. This has wiped out any savings that would have been made.

It has been agreed Play Services is to be contracted out. Also the Family Centres’ childcare provision continues to face the threat of outsourcing.

There is no real evidence that outsourcing actually produces any real saving in the long term and there are countless examples of public services brought back in-house as companies fail. For example, the East Coast rail line.

Epic CIC, the first youth services mutual was established last year. Due to the complexities surrounding the teachers’ pension scheme meant that some staff was seconded rather than TUPEd over.

Sadly we have lost our UNISON rep Joseph Clemoes who decided on a change of career. The Branch appreciates all the hard work he did during this intense period.

Membership and organisation

Our Branch membership levels have been maintained in the last year despite the redundancies, early retirements and other departures.

There is always room for improvement and if each member recruited one new person to UNISON this would strengthen our Branch, and reinforce any negotiations with the employer. We always need new workplace representatives and we will give full support and training. You may enjoy the experience.

We now also have five functioning Self Organised Groups (SOG): Black Members Group LGBT, Disabled Members, Women’s group and Retired Members.

Branch meetings

In the addition to the AGM we held five Branch meetings last year, most concentrating on our pay campaign. Many were well attended and its helps to ensure members participation.

The Branch also held it inaugural women’s meeting hosted by Felicity Scott, the Branch women’s officer. She has started to plan some quite exciting meetings for 2015.

Tri borough working/bi borough working

UNISON continues to represent our members through the many reorganisation and redundancies that have occurred as this shared service model continues.

Last year has seen a large number of Council services become part of the shared services model. These included Environmental Health, Food Safety, Parking, Legal Services, School Divisions and Human Resources. We continue to monitor the impact and seek the best deal for affected members.

The Emergency Duty Team reorganisation has yet to be resolved and has been fraught with concerns from members across the tri borough partners. Wherever feasible we have worked with our sister UNISON branches in both Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster.

Job Evaluation Appeals

The final Single Status evaluations took place at the beginning of 2014. It took over 6 years to complete only having taken over 6 years to complete. We are now in the process of negotiating a new job evaluation appeals policy as we now have members awaiting this process.

Relations with the wider UNISON and trade union movement.

As a Branch we have played our part in UNISON’S wider activities to the full. We sent delegations to our National Delegates Conference in Brighton last June and various SOG groups conferences.

The Branch had a magnificent turn out on the day of action on 10 July. We also took part in the march on fair pay and the TUC anti-austerity demonstration in October.

Attacks to terms and conditions

You will be aware of the Council’s threats to the Pay Protection policy and the Sickness Policy.

The Branch continues to robustly oppose these changes and considers them unnecessary and divisive. HR is currently organising staff focus groups to ascertain staff opinion. I would encourage all of you to attend making your voices heard on both these proposals.

The Branch is in negotiations with HR and the Council challenging the introduction of these proposals.

We have tabled a motion for discussion at the AGM regarding the Council’s proposed changes. We have also produced a petition and urge all staff to sign it. It’s important to give the Council a clear message that if these proposals should go ahead it will leave our members vulnerable to potential financial hardship. Furthermore the threat to lower the trigger absence day’s from 10 down to 6 will inevitably lead to lower moral and loss of productivity.

Finally I would like to thank all the Branch officers and our union representatives for their continuing commitment and hard work supporting our members.

In Solidarity

Sonya Howard—UNISON Branch Secretary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Your Choice Barnet Care Workers Strike Back Against Pay Cut

The Your Choice Barnet care workers (YCB) strike action will be taken on 24 & 25 February in the middle of the Fair Pay fortnight (16 Feb-1 March 2015) which is highlighting around Britain’s cost of living crisis.

YCB care workers had a 9.5% pay cut imposed from 1 April last year add to that the fact that prices have risen by just Your Choice Barnet care workers strike back against pay cutunder 20. Before the 9.5% pay cut the impact on the members pay has seen around £3,400 stripped from the value of their wages.

This will make a total of 8 days of strike action since the dispute began. This is in a bid to reverse the harsh 9.5% pay cut imposed on them by their employer.

YCB has not met with UNISON as they have indicated they have nothing new to offer. Barnet Council has failed to become involved in a positive way at all. The Council has been giving preferential treatment to its private contractors with the news of Capita receiving some £110million on top of its contract in order to keep the contract working. If YCB were to receive this, it would carry on producing a service to the residents on the scale it does for the next 18 years with no pay cut to staff!

At the same time the UNISON members are continuing to deliver a quality service to adults with disabilities, often with less staff and an increase in agency workers.

Barnet Commissioning Council continues to spend millions on consultants to help deliver its privatisation programme which are clearly designed to undermine members pensions, pay and terms & conditions,

The 9.5% pay cut was not the only attack on YCB care workers. There had already been other attacks to unsocial hours and a third of the workforce were made redundant.

The 9.5% was the final straw as the care works can already see the impact of a two tier workforce where staff doing the same work are being paid less money.

The UNISON members are determined that they will not be ignored. They know the Tories could intervene to help resolve this dispute which is why they agreed the next round of strike action.

Picket line information

Flower Lane Day Centre
41 Flower Lane
Barnet
London NW7 2JN

Rosa Morrison Day Centre
83 Gloucester Road
Totteridge
Barnet
London EN5 1NA

The start times are 7.30am to 12noon

 

More information is available from:

John Burgess, Branch Secretary. Barnet UNISON
0208 359 2088 www.barnetunison.me.uk

 

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Barnet Care Workers to take strike action 22nd & 23rd January 2015.

UNISON members working for Your Choice Barnet (YCB) have just announced their next strike dates as being 22nd and 23rd January. In addition the workers will be attending an event in the House of Commons 28th January highlighting the conditions for workers in this sector. This will make a total of 6 days of strike action since the dispute began. This is in a bid to reverse the harsh 9.5% pay cut imposed on them by their employer.

UNISON and YCB have had numerous meetings at ACAS and there has been no improved offer which has come close toPay Strike Round being acceptable to the majority of workers. The latest offer made in October 2014, was a 7.9% pay cut and this was resoundingly rejected in a ballot of the membership. The discussions have, however, revealed stark issues imposed on YCB by Barnet Council which make it difficult to see how YCB can survive financially into the future without the workers constantly bailing it out through their financial sacrifice. The pensions’ deficit (an extra 9.8% payment) for the TUPE’d staff was transferred across to YCB, although this did not happen with other contracts in the private sector. Relieving YCB of the pensions’ deficit would restore members’ pay at one stroke. Not allowing YCB to charge for unplanned “no-shows” (when service users are unable to attend the service at short notice) would potentially halve the pay cut to members. However, Barnet Council refuses to participate in any discussions although ultimately the Council holds the purse strings.

Meanwhile members complaine that they are working harder than ever with increasing levels of stress and no prospect of a pay rise. They report the first day they have off from work is used simply to recover from the stressful week they have had. The pay cut has left many of members finding it particularly hard to make ends meet.  They have made it clear they want to see a substantial shift in any new proposals from YCB in order to end the dispute.

UNISON Branch Secretary John Burgess said:

“Our members held back from taking action before Christmas in order not to disrupt the service for service users and their carers at such a sensitive time of the year. This demonstrates again their professionalism and dedication but also their determination to stand up to attacks on their terms and conditions.”

22 & 23 Picket Line details

  1. Flower Lane Day Centre 41 Flower Lane Barnet London NW7 2JN

 

  1. Rosa Morrison Day Centre

83 Gloucester Road Totteridge Barnet London EN5 1NA

The start times are 7.30am to 12noon

 

 

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