UNISON 2015 School Uniform Grant

The Childen’s Society recently reported that parents are paying hundreds of pounds for school uniforms with many poor families ending up in debt or forced to cut back on essentials to pay for items.  The charity suggests that nearly 800,000 pupils go to school in poorly fitting uniforms while a further 400,000 have been sent home for wearing ‘incorrect’ clothing.  One of the key reasons for high uniform spending are policies that force parents to buy items from specialist shops which often push costs up by nearly £100.”

There for You, UNISON’s own charity has just launched its 2015 School Uniform initiative and members on low income can apply for a grant to help with these costs.  The process is quick and straightforward – members simply need to complete the application form which can be downloaded at www.unison.org.uk/thereforyou and post to UNISON There for You, 130 Euston Road, London NW1 2AY.  The closing date to receive applications is 10 July 2015 and anyone eligible can expect to receive a cheque to help with the cost of kitting out their children before schools go back after the Summer break.

To learn more about the range of help and assistance available from ‘There for You’ visit www.unison.org.uk/thereforyou

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Sponsor Felicity Scott on this Year’s Prudential Ride London-Surrey

Last year I ended a 20-year hiatus and obtained a bicycle, my first since I was 12 years old. The challenge of cycling through London’s rush hour traffic terrified me, and it’s taken all year for me to feel comfortable on busy roads.

Then, four weeks ago, I signed up for the Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 and pretty quickly I realised that my cycle to work was a mere walk in the park.

To put it in to context, cycling the London-Surrey 100 on 2nd August is the equivalent of doing my ride to work 20 times, without stopping (except for the occasional toilet break), with an ascent of Surrey’s indomitable Box Hill thrown in for good measure… all before 5pm, when they clear the roads for the professionals. What was I thinking? Why on earth did I volunteer to do this?

I chickened out of entering the ballot last year so I jumped at the chance of taking part when Refuge emailed asking for people to join their team a few weeks ago. Not only for the opportunity to embark on a personal challenge, but also to raise essential funds which are needed to ensure Refuge can continue their vital work.

Refuge is a national charity which supports thousands of women and children every day who have survived – or are currently experiencing – domestic abuse. And that’s just for starters. They also: campaign to raise public awareness to prevent further domestic abuse; lobby government to ensure that the voices of vulnerable women and children are heard; provide training for professionals; and carry out research to educate people about the long lasting impact that domestic violence can have on a woman and her family. You can find out more about their work here: http://www.refuge.org.uk/

Since signing up I have moments when I am giddy with excitement and daydream about pedalling across the finish line, triumphant and sweaty! Initially the enormity of the challenge escaped me. I imagined it to be a big fun bike ride.  But then I noticed other people’s reactions when I told them what I had signed up for. Don’t get me wrong, they were supportive but I got the sense that they thought I was mad, that I hadn’t really thought this through. Then it dawned on me:  100 miles, multiple hills, time limited. Anxiety set in.

Preparing for a sporting event of this nature is a challenge in itself. I have to think about my nutrition, fitness and health in ways I never have before. I have a training programme which sets out each day what I must do from now until 2nd August. I find this part enjoyable, I like the structure, it motivates me. I feel focused (most of the time) and I have an actual goal! So despite the enormous challenge ahead I am thrilled to be taking part. There will be thousands of us out there, all will have trained, all determined to finish. We’ll be cycling through central London and the beautiful Surrey countryside and the roads will be completely bereft of cars. How wonderful! Completing this challenge will certainly put my body to the test but its also going to take grit, fortitude and a fearlessness I could only have dreamed about one year ago.


First thing first, I printed out my training programme on A3 paper and stuck it to my kitchen cupboards: an act of unequivocal dedication, I told myself.  Then I took a trip to the local bike shop to get my bike checked out. I practically bounced into the shop beaming, proud to tell them all about what I’d signed up for. They didn’t seem as impressed as I hoped. So I asked if I could join their cycling club – maybe this would show them how serious I was? The guy took one look at me, one look at my bike and said ‘not on that bike’. I hit my first set back. I assumed that my second-hand hyrid would be fine. Sure, its a bit chunky and battered but it works. It’s got all the gears. Plus it’s comfy, upright, with a nice cushioned saddle and lovely fat tyers that make riding over lumps and bumps in the road a doddle. Yet the shop assistant was adamant that I would not complete the ride on that bike. He showed me some skinny-wheeled thing with curlying handlebars and clippy pedals. Not my cuppa tea really. And it was £600. So I left, glum, feeling ever so stupid and naïve.  My chips had been well and truly rained upon.

My boyfriend, ever the optimist, told me to forget about the man’s disparaging comments and get on with training. After all, the shop assistant was probably just trying to sell me that fancy bike. Yeh, what did he know?

So I got on with it. Eager to start training, I dragged my boyfriend and some friends out for my first training session to Richmond Park. We entered through Roehampton Gate and went clockwise, which meant we had to climb a section known as Broomfield Hill.  Christ, that hill is steep! Despite having an impressive range of gears, it turns out I didn’t really know how to use them. I made it up that hill but had to stop three times.  We made it round the park and back home again. 25 miles. A solid, if exhausting, start.

The next weekend I tried to improve– 30 miles this time. Again my boyfriend and a different friend were roped in to joining me. We headed for Hampstead Heath, mostly for the hills. The headline from this trip? Hills are hard. Hills keep me awake at night.

The following weekend I increased my distance a bit more, this time doing around 40 miles. My chunky bike was holding out! I was getting faster and more confident. Hills were still tricky, but now I understood what to do with gears it was somewhat easier. I’d even done a midweek training ride out to Richmond Park for a lap before work. I was feeling unstoppable!

More and more people were telling me how much easier it would be if I had a lighter frame and skinny wheels; in short, a road bike. Buying one simply wasn’t an option. I thought about going to a Police auction or asking a bike shop to loan me a bike until after the race. Nothing materialised. The more I looked at my dear old hybrid, the more impossible this 100 mile cycle seemed.

Out with the old….

Felicity on bike 1

Then, a miracle. My friend offered to lend me hers. Boom. It’s actually the bike she had bought two years ago to do the London-Surrey 100, but she hadn’t felt fit enough at the time, so didn’t get to do it. Score on the bike but this friend is already much fitter than I’ll ever be so again I felt anxiety levels rise. I pushed these nagging doubts to one side to make room for the dread of having to ride this expensive-looking, much faster, drop-handlebarred beast.

In with the new…

Felicity on bike 2

The first ride didn’t go too well. Once again I took myself to Richmond Park. Coming down the hill heading towards Richmond Gate I approached the roundabout and lost my nerve. Fearing I was going too fast and that I didn’t have enough space to manoeuvre, I suddenly lost control. The bicycle disappeared from under me and I crunched into the hard ground, feeling the cold wetness seeping in through my clothes. Shaken up but not injured I quickly retrieved the bike from the middle of the road before any cars came. I’d somehow wedged the handlebars under the frame. I couldn’t pull them out. Fortunately there were some very kind cyclists who checked I was ok and one guy was able to free the handlebars. This was the one ride I hadn’t managed to cajole my boyfriend in to coming. I found myself, on a bleak and overcast Sunday afternoon, alone in the middle of Richmond Park, 13 miles from home with sore hands, grazed knees and a bruised ego. I had no choice but to get back on the wretched thing and cycle home. Slowly.

The next few weeks were training light. I reverted back to the sturdy hybrid, incorporating my training into my commute. Weekend commitments meant training over long distances all but grinded to a halt. All the time, whenever I thought about, or worse still, locked eyes on that horrible road bike I would fill with terror. I actually think I hated that bike for a while.

Then the bike gods struck a crucial blow. The break cable on the hybrid broke one more morning before work. I contemplated getting the tube but against my better judgement, I got back on the road bike. It felt like a small victory. Later on I took the road bike to the my local shop to check it was ok. This time the bike lady was really friendly and not at all condescending. She raised the saddle and flipped the handlebars so they tilted upwards.  Turns out I had been riding on virtually flat tyres too, so no wonder that ride to Richmond Park was so uncomfortable! With the adjustments made, when I did eventually pluck up the courage (all be it by force of hand), I felt more at ease.

That brings me up to now. It’s the beginning of June and I have eight weeks until the big day. Details of my training programme are here: https://thecyclistablog.wordpress.com/training-programme/

As you can see I have a long way to go.

I’ll be blogging and tweeting along the way, partly for my own catharsis but mostly to aid my fundraising for Refuge. My target is £750 and I really want to smash it! Riding for Refuge is an honour and I am determined to reach my goal so they can continue to do their life-changing work.

All donations will be received with my heartfelt gratitude. You can visit my fundraising page here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=FelicityScott&faId=593145&isTeam=false

As well as, or instead of, financial donations, if you have completed the ride before or you’re doing it this year, I’d love to hear from you! Tips, training routes and techniques, kit suggestions and general messages of encouragement and wisdom are all needed.

Back in 2013’s inaugural event, Boris Johnson did it in eight hours and four minutes. Sally Gunnell did it in five hours and 40 minutes.  If I cross that finishing line before 5pm, I will have succeeded in my challenge. Topping Sally’s time is a bit out of my reach but, if I can beat Boris and do it in under eight hours, I will be well chuffed! Thank you in advance for your generosity and support.


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2016/17 NJC Pay Claim Agreed

UNISON, GMB and Unite have agreed the following NJC Trade Union Side pay claim for 2016/17:

  • Deletion of NJC and all local pay points which fall below the level of the UK Living Wage (and deletion of GLPC pay points below London Living Wage) and a flat rate increase of £1 per hour on all other pay points
  • Retention and protection of Green Book Part 2 terms and conditions
  • Fair treatment for school support staff through a joint review of term time working

The agreed claim is based on UNISON’s main proposals, which we consulted members on. Significantly,Money the deletion of the pay points was UNISON’s preferred method for achieving the Living Wage, and UNISON and Unite’s preference for £1 an hour up the scale was adopted, in preference over the GMB’s support for a 5% increase.

Despite pushing the other unions very hard, we could not get their agreement to include UNISON’s proposal to backdate the settlement date to 1 April 2015, in the claim. However, the other unions did agree that the written claim would highlight the progress we want on:

  • The real terms pay cut to living standards in recent years
  • The inadequacy of last year’s pay settlement in restoring members’ lost earnings
  • The inadequate funding for a pay increase for local government workers last year
  • The Employers’ refusal in recent years to engage in meaningful negotiations
  • The Employers’ refusal to enter into arbitration to help resolve pay disputes in a fair manner

The Trade Union Side will submit the written claim to the Employers next month.

We will also look to lodge equivalent pay claims to ALMOs and other appropriate outsourced employers. This will require further discussion on co-ordination through the NJC Executive Trade Union Side.

UNISON Additional Pay Claim for 2015/16 – next steps

As agreed by UNISON’s Special Conference, the UNISON NJC Committee submitted an additional pay claim for the 2015/16 pay round to the employers in April. This sought the full time equivalent Living Wage rate to be the minimum pay value of the NJC pay spine and an equivalent flat rate increase to be applied to all other NJC pay scale points, from 1 April 2015. The Employers replied that they were not willing to consider this additional claim, as a settlement had already been reached for 2014-16. As noted above UNISON sought to backdate the 16/17 claim to address outstanding aspects of the 15/16 claim, however the other unions were not prepared to consider this.

The NJC Committee will decide next steps on this issue at its meeting on 8 July. UNISON’s campaign materials for 2016/17 will highlight the additional 2015/16 claim and UNISON’s negotiators will push the issue of backdating with the employers in talks on the 2016/17 claim.


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Credit Union Provides Banking Buddy Service

A London-based Your Credit Union is offering a ‘Banking Buddy’ service to its members who want to open a bank account but lack the confidence to go along on their own.

The Kensington High Street union says having a current account helps people improve their credit score, and means they can pay bills by Direct Debit, shop online and draw out funds at home and internationally.

“Some people feel too intimidated to cross the threshold because they feel it’s just ‘not for them’; others might not feel confident speaking English and are anxious they won’t be ‘heard’,” said Your Credit Union CEO William RhodeimagesCAK958E3s.

“For others, it might be a case of them having been turned down for an account in the past and are loath to face any potential further embarrassment by trying again. That is where having a Banking Buddy comes in.

“If someone is there with you, it can be like having an imaginary arm around your shoulder, knowing someone is there on your side.

“Everyone has a right to one of these basic current accounts. They don’t come with an overdraft facility or a cheque book, but you do get a Visa Debit card which means you can pay for things online.

“We make sure they bring along enough proof to satisfy the bank and sit with them while they’re going through the form.”

In a unique agreement with Barclays in West London, Your Credit Union will book and accompany the individual to an appointment with a named member of the bank staff.

The union already holds regular pop-up sessions at Barclays branches across West London and the new move is seen as a way of strengthening the relationship and supporting local people.

Added Mr Rhodes: “Barclays have been hugely supportive to us over the past 18 months, allowing the organisation to hold regular pop-ups in their branches in West London, and we are delighted to do something that is mutually supportive.”

The union recently helped José from Portugal who has been living in the UK since 2005 and who has never been able to open a current account with a bank. He is now a proud Barclays current account holder.

“I’ve tried a couple of times over the years, but it I always seem to get declined and just walk out feeling dejected.

“Having no Debit Card makes things really tricky, especially when I go back home to see my family. I end up having to take cash with me as I can’t draw any money out which isn’t ideal.

“Having a bank account it is really good news. I can buy things on the internet which can often be much cheaper.”

Anyone who would like Your Credit Union to help them open a bank account with the Bank Buddy Service call: 0207 605 6341.

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March for Barnet Libraries

Join the march to support our libraries – Saturday 25th April – 11:00am

Chipping Barnet Library to Osidge via East Barnet.

Meet at the Spires Bandstand where London.

Metropolitan Brass will start the march.

Save Barnet Libraries is campaigning for a properly comprehensive service maintained, enhanced and run by professional librarians and library workers employed by Barnet Council.

The council are proposing a 60% cut to the libraries budget. This could mean the closure of 6 branches or 10 branches reduced to 540 sq feet (just twice the size of the average British living room). Most libraries would only be staffed 40% of the time; CCTV and swipe cards would provide the only ‘security’ at other times.

Sign the petition (currently 9,500 signatures)


Get involved and support your library

e-mail Savebarnetlibraries@hotmail.com to get in touch with your local library user group.

Express your views at your local residents’ association or place of worship.

SaveBarnetLibraries Osidge/East Barnet Library User Group

Poster for Library March

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Don’t Forget to Vote in the NEC elections 2015

The ballot for UNISON’s National Executive Council opened immediately after the bank holiday weekend and you may have already received your ballot papers.

This will be an important election in which we will choose the lay leadership of our trade union in the crucial period after the coming General Election. We need NEC members who are diligent and critical and with this in mind the Branch has nominated the following candidates:

Sonya Howard                        Helen Davies

Hugo Pierre                             Jon Rogers

Phoebe Watkins                      Jane Doolan

Paul Holmes                           Glenn Kelly

Please take the time to complete and return your ballot papers and help democratically shape UNISON for the next 2 years.

TH Newsflash NEC elections 2015 a5 f


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Barnet Council Workers to Strike

87% of UNISON members working for Barnet “easyCouncil” vote YES to strike action.

The trades dispute with London Borough of Barnet is over staff remaining in employment with Barnet Council. TheBarnet Banner strike ballot is a direct response to the five commissioning projects agreed at the 3 March 2015 Full Council meeting which would mean outsourcing the majority of the workforce into a variety of alternative delivery models.

  1. Education & Skills and School Meals services
  2. Library Service
  3. Early Years: Children’s Centres
  4. Adult Social Care
  5. Street Scene Services

The Education & Skills and School Meals services is already in Competitive Dialogue discussions with the following contractors:

  • Capita Business Services Ltd
  • EC Harris LLP
  • Mott MacDonald Ltd, trading as Cambridge Education

Looking at Capita’s track record http://www.capita.co.uk/who-we-are/our-history.aspx <http://www.capita.co.uk/who-we-are/our-history.aspx> in bidding and winning contracts it is highly likely they will win this contract making it the third big contract they will have won with Barnet Council.

UNISON Branch Secretary John Burgess said: The vote was never in doubt. The workforce in Barnet is amazing and resilient workforce. The vote confirms that that our members have had enough of the ideological obsession with outsourcing. The Council does not value the workforce which can be seen when unpaid overtime and long hours are never recognised when putting together bids for outsourcing projects. The fact that the Council refuses to run in-house comparators has made it clear to our members that their future employment with the Council is threatened.


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