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 of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sonya Howard—UNISON Branch Secretary.