Fire safety issues in Barnet Libraries

Over the last year Barnet UNISON have been very concerned about Fire Safety in Barnet Libraries.

This arose because the Council were slow in providing Fires Risk Assessments (FRAs) for Libraries and in complying with the actions resulting from these assessments.

During 2017 Library buildings were altered as part of the Library Program. This included internal structural changes and the installation of technology to permit unstaffed opening hours. These changes meant that the building’s Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) needed reviewing and replacing.

In addition a new Library, Finchley Church End was opened in September 2017 which also required a Fire Risk Assessment

UNISON began asked the Council for these Fire Risk Assessment prior to library staff returning to each site and before the Libraries opened to the public.

However the Council only produced these FRA weeks and months after library staff and the public were admitted to the Libraries.

Examples include;

1. North Finchley Library reopened to the public on the 12th June 2017

The FRA issued on the 24th August 2017

 

2. Golders Green Library reopened to the public on the 3rd July 2017                                  The FRA issued on 10th August 20.17

 

3. Osidge Library reopened to the public on the 26th June 2017

The FRA issued on the 16th August 2017

The FRAs when they were produced identified a number of actions for the Council to carry out. The majority of these were described as a

  • “…..a potential contravention of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, or a high risk to Health & Safety from fire”

The deadline for complying with most of these actions was three months from the issue of the FRA.​​

A few of the issues are listed below:

  • Replacing Fire Doors at some with doors with the required level of fire Resistance
  • Fire Refuge Area communication system not working at a number of sites
  • The Emergency Lighting untested at a number of sites
  • No record of the five yearly structural inspection of the external fire escapes at a number of libraries
  • Incomplete Fire Safety signage missing at a number of sites
  • Smoke seals needed for doors at a number of libraries
  • Insufficient numbers of fire extinguisher at one site
  • Fire extinguisher incorrectly mounted at a number of sites
  • Fire door not closing correctly at one library
  • Basement area at one library requiring upgrading to required level of fire resistance
  • Width of staff exit at one site below recommendations
  • Confirmation needed that there is fire separation in the roof void between the library and the commercial use area at one site

Barnet UNISON have been inspecting Libraries to see if the FRA actions have been carried out. In most cases these have not been completed. UNISON have raised this at a number of escalating meetings to the highest level and in our inspection reports.

But no real evidence was presented to Barnet UNISON by the Council that most of the issues had been resolved. Barnet UNISON informed the Council on a number of the occasions that if this continued we would be compelled to contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to report our concerns.

Despite this the Council failed to meaningfully respond and with regret Barnet UNISON reported our concerns to the Health and Safety Executive.

The Council have since then provided UNISON with a plan of works to act upon the FRAs but while this is welcome. These action should have been completed months ago.

The Council inaction has in UNISON view being largely caused by various Council/Capita management teams’ failure to take responsibility to have the Fire Risk Assessment in place in good time and to respond in sufficient time to resolve the problems identified in these assessments.

Barnet UNISON do not believe these failures have been due to library staff on site, who have reported these problems according to Council  procedures and to their Trade Union , and who have themselves been put at risk by the Council.

Barnet UNISON will continue in our campaign to make Barnet Libraries safe for our members, all Library staff and the public.

To this end we call on the Council to:

  • Ensure that libraries and other Council buildings have up to date FRAs in place before staff and the public are admitted
  • Act speedily and effectively to comply with Fire Risk Assessments
  • Review the management of Fire Safety arrangements and monitoring within the Council
  • Work with UNISON and other concerned parties in addressing the risks and hazards in identified in Fire Risk Assessments.

Please note: The following services are provided by #Capita:

  • Estates
  • Health and Safety
  • Project Management

Four Days That Shook One Barnet

What a week it has been.

Background:

In August 2013 Barnet Council decided to “get into bed” with Capita, when they signed the contracts, Capita Share price was 959.

Back in 2010 another contractor (Connaught’s) went into liquidation. They provided the Council Housing repair service. Our members were sacked by a telephone conference call.

As a result of that experience, when the Council started “courting” the private sector to run our services, Barnet UNISON warned the Council about the risk of contractor failure.

The response to our feedback was, “don’t worry”, “Capita is a top FTSE 100 company”, hence there is no risk of the contractor failure.

2018 and Carillion.

Earlier this year Carillion collapsed and went into administration.

To the wider public it was a surprise and a shock.

However, as more details emerge about the fall of Carillion, more questions are being asked.

  • How did this happen?
  • Why did the external auditors KPMG sign off their accounts.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/01/30/kmpg-investigation-will-make-break-frc/

  • Why did the government hand over large scale contracts to a company that was in serious financial trouble long before it finally collapsed?

“For those already thinking this sounds a bit like Carillion – you are right. A gaping pension deficit, departing CEO, shrinking cash flow and over-reliance on intangible “goodwill” in it’s accounts – signed off by KPMG.

Capita’s profit warning caps a 24 month slide which saw the UK’s largest outsourcing company tumble out of the FTSE 100 index, its share price losing 80 per cent of its value since January 2016, falling from £11.60 to £2.01 today.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/capita-carillion-outsourcing-local-authorities-councils-barnet-northamtonpshire-a8188006.html

It is not clear whether the above news of the fall of the Capita Share price has ever been noted in the Barnet Council register. Furthermore after listening to the Council debate (Tuesday 30 January 208) on contingency plans in the event of contractor failure it is blatantly clear that none of the councillors had any awareness of the Capita Share price position.

 

Day One: Tuesday 30 January 2018.

Capita Share Price opened 358.60

On Tuesday 30 January 2018 at the Barnet Full Council meeting the following Opposition (Labour) Motion was submitted in the name of Cllr Barry Rawlings

Public services and outsourcing

Council notes the collapse of the giant outsourcing firm Carillion earlier this month following financial problems, a number of profit warnings, the departure of its Chief Executive and a drastic plunge in its share price. Council notes the uncertainty and concern this causes for thousands of Carillion’s workers, the small businesses in its supply chain, the projects it was contracted to deliver, and the public who use the services it was contracted to provide.

Council notes LB Barnet’s use of mass outsourcing contracts to provide critical back office, regulatory and other services, and therefore requests that the Policy & Resources Committee receives a report on what contingency plans are in place should anything similar happen to outsourced services in Barnet.

You can listen to the debate by going to the web site http://bit.ly/2EycNU5

The following motion was agreed. This is astonishing in itself as it is extremely rare for all political parties to agree on a motion.

The contingency plans for insourcing will be submitted to Performance and Contract Management Committee, Tuesday 27th February, 2018 7.00 pm.

This is a public meeting

“Flying a kite to cause trouble” “nothing to worry about Capita”

This debate took place before anyone was aware that Capita were about to issue a Profit notice.

Capita Share price closed at 347.60

 

Day Two: Wednesday 31 January 2018

Capita Share Price opened 250.00

Capita plc issue a profit warning:

Capita’s new Chief Executive stated: “Today, Capita is too complex,” he said. “It is driven by a short-term focus and lacks operational discipline and financial flexibility. [It] needs to change its approach. Cost savings and non-core disposals alone will not be enough. We have also taken the significant decision to suspend the dividend and seek equity.”

Some headlines:

Capita: more than £1bn wiped off value of UK government contractor

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jan/31/shares-in-uk-government-contractor-capita-plunge-40-after-profit-warning

The next Carillion? Shares in outsourcing firm Capita plunged 40% after profit warning.

http://uk.businessinsider.com/capita-profit-warning-share-price-fall-2018-1

Outsourcing giant Capita announced the suspension of its dividend as part of a transformation plan this morning – and shares duly plunged by more than 40 per cent.

http://www.cityam.com/279777/capita-shares-have-tumbled-more-than-third-city-reacting

Contingency plans being made for Barnet’s contracts with Capita

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jan/31/contingency-plans-being-made-for-barnets-contracts-with-capita

Barnet UNISON writes to Chief Executive seeking details of the contingency plans.

 

Capita share price closed at 183.05

 

Day Three: Thursday 1 February 2018

Capita Share price opened at 178.15

In the debate in the House of Commons today, a Labour MP referred to Barnet Council having a contingency plan.

https://youtu.be/d_hRl60ZcN4

UK officials met Capita bosses to discuss its financial problems

The company’s value has more than halved since a profit warning earlier this week, falling a further 13% on Thursday. Competitors including Interserve, Mitie and Serco also saw their shares slide.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/feb/01/uk-officials-capita-discuss-financial-problems

Oh dear, Capita: MPs put future UK.gov outsourcing in the spotlight

Labour MP Rachel Reeves asked about the serious financial concerns at Capita, after £1bn was wiped off the company’s value following a suspension of dividends and £700m rights issue yesterday. The firm’s shares have now plunged by almost 50 per cent.

Immediately after the announcement, Barnet Council – dubbed “easyCouncil” for its extreme reliance on outsourcing (it has more than half a billion pounds worth of contracts with Capita) – put contingency plans in place to examine how it would handle the fallout should Capita fail.

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/02/01/mps_scrutinise_capita_uk_government_outsourcing_contracts/

Capita share price closed at 160.25

 

 

Day Four: Friday 2 February 2018

Capita Share price opened at 160.35

 

Carillion collapse leaves Northern Ireland staff ‘facing uncertainty’

“The news that Capita stocks have nosedived places further pressure on the system of outsourcing public services and will require a significant review. We also referred the security of the PIP assessment contract, which currently rests with Capita, to the Auditor General for further inquiries.”

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/carillion-collapse-leaves-northern-ireland-staff-facing-uncertainty-36557577.html

 

Norfolk councils will monitor contractor Capita after news of group’s woes

http://www.edp24.co.uk/business/norfolk-councils-monitoring-contractor-capita-shares-financial-problems-carillion-1-5378698

 

Capita contract probed after thousands of clinical letters stuffed in a drawer somewhere

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/02/02/spending_watchdog_probes_clinical_correspondence_backlog_in_capita_contract/

 

‘Business as usual’ for school support company Entrust – despite Capita profit warning

http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/news/stoke-on-trent-news/business-usual-school-support-company-1157615

Capita share price closed at 162.30

Barnet Bin Workers – 97% vote Yes for strike action

Earlier this month Barnet Council senior management issued an instruction that staff were to go out on some of the rounds with a worker down.

Our members were frustrated and angry at this instruction and their fears for health and safety were being ignored.

Barnet UNISON backed their calls for this management instruction to be stopped.

Unfortunately, so far, management have refused to rescind their instruction.

In the last two weeks there have been a number of meetings with senior officials and Barnet UNISON to seek a resolution.

To date the management instruction is being implemented. This is an instruction which UNISON believes puts our members health and safety at risk.

Barnet UNISON has carried out an informal ballot in order to test the strength of feeling of the membership.

The ballot closed yesterday.

“The message from the members is very clear. We had a 93% turnout with 97% voting for strike action. In meeting after meeting I have advised senior management that the anger on the shop floor is intensifying for strike action as each day goes by and this management instruction continues. We have a final meeting on Monday 29 January to see if this trade dispute can be resolved.” John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON

Press release: Barnet UNISON say no to instruction to send out understaffed crews for Bin workers.

On Wednesday 10 January 2018, Barnet UNISON was at a routine set of meetings at the depot when we were informed by management that the Council will not cover staff absence with an agency worker. This means that crews will be instructed to go out on their waste refuse rounds with a person down.

The street cleansing service workforce (staffed by workers who for example sweep the streets) has already been but by 19% after a recent Barnet Council decision. Now some of the waste and recycling crews have been questioning if the decision to send them out understaffed is part of anticipated cutbacks. To add to our concerns for the health and wellbeing of our workforce we can confirm there have been no risk assessments produced as a result of this management instruction which in our view places an unacceptable health and safety risk to all of our members.

Our members will know from listening to the news that the RMT union has been conducting a number of strikes across the country in relation to safety. For Barnet UNISON workers safety is no less an issue. They also know that the Birmingham Bin workers took strike action over attacks to staffing levels.

John Burgess Branch Secretary Barnet UNISON: “I want to make it clear to all our members that their health and safety is paramount to Barnet UNISON and that we do not agree with this management instruction. This proposal lies at the door of austerity politics and a view that you can simply keep on cutting with no thought to the safety of the staff having to deliver a service. Our members may not be doctors or nurses or teachers but without them our streets would quickly become toxic and unsafe. I urge senior management to rescind this instruction, allow our members to continue to deliver this vital frontline service unhindered by any further threats to their safety and remind Barnet Council our members “are not the rubbish they collect.”

End.

Notes to Editors.

Contact details: John Burgess Barnet UNISON on or 020 8359 2088 or email: john.burgess@barnetunison.org.uk

 

Barnet UNISON Nursery Nurse reps feedback on their successful claim

“Barnet Nursery Nurses won their appeal! This would not have happened without the support and dedication of John Burgess and Unison. Thank you from us all.”

Beverley (UNISON Nursery Nurse rep).

 

“Barnet unison remained resolute in their commitment throughout this appeal. Showing the importance of working together to ensure ever member has a voice, this was paramount to secure this momenta’s positive conclusion for Barnet Nursery Nurses.”

Elaine Thompson Unison Nursery Nurse Rep.

“Unison has provided steadfast support to the nursery nurses since as far back as 2009. John Burgess in particular advised and guided the three nursery teams that went through the federation process, resulting in a much better staffing structure than had originally been offered.

Throughout every occurrence Unison has kept their members informed and updated so much so that when Unified pay come over the horizon we all had every confidence that our best interests were at the heart of any negotiations they were involved in.  The confidence and determination/ tenacity shown by the Unison team was infectious and made us all the more determined to at least have our say.

Knowing John Burgess had championed others and been successful gave us hope and spurred us on to do our homework, galvanise as workers and put our case to the powers that be. Happily we were successful and I’m sure that with Unison on your side any workers have a fighting chance. Good luck comrades!”
Ruth Kevin (UNISON rep)

 

GOOD NEWS: Update on proposed sacking of “Barnet Two”

Defend the “Barnet Two” update

Today I can confirm that the proposal to sack our only two welfare rights advisors has been suspended.

I will be going in to talks with our members next week.

I want to thank all the council workers who have sent messages of support including solidarity messages from the community and of course BAFTA winner Ken Loach and Ian Hodson President National President Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union BFAWU.

The lesson must be if you don’t challenge decisions then you will never know if you could have made a difference.

I am proud of the “Barnet Two” who despite the incredible stress and pressure they are under have managed to stay positive and focussed. I can see why both of them are excellent Welfare Advisors and why they are a credit to the Council.

Updates will follow.

John Burgess

UNISON rep.

Background links here.

“I am bloody angry”– The Cruellest Cut to Welfare Rights advisors

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2017/04/25/i-am-bloody-angry-the-cruellest-cut-to-welfare-rights-advisors/

URGENT UPDATE “SIMPLY UNBELIEVABLE” Update Welfare Rights

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2017/05/04/simply-unbelievable-update-welfare-rights/

 

 

“Conscious Brutality”

These are the words Ken Loach uses to describe the proposed cuts to our last 2 Welfare Rights Advisors.

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2017/05/04/ken-loach-on-proposed-sacking-of-welfare-rights-advisors/

Shockingly this proposed cut is not about saving money! One of the biggest user groups of the service are those with Mental Health problems.

Of course it’s great that famous people are joining in to break the taboo of talking about Mental ill-health but what is the point if we just then kick these people in the face by removing access to an important service!

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