On Monday 14 May 2018, Barnet UNISON continued our pledge made at our AGM to send our banner in solidarity to each Grenfell Silent march which take place on the 14th of each month.
I have been on hundreds of marches but I’ve not attended a silent march before.
It is hard to explain just how powerful it is unless you are there.
Once it begins no one speaks, no mobile phones, the traffic stops, even the birds in the trees seem subdued. I could hear the wind in the trees, it was so quiet I could hear the Barnet UNISON banner poles squeaking.
Half way through the march there is a touching scene where residents shake the hands of the firefighters who are lined up in respect alongside of the march.
I spoke to a number of people and they do welcome the unions providing solidarity.
This collection of campaigns are having to fight tooth and nail for justice.
Whilst they have won a victory to have people on the panel alongside the Judge there is so much to fight for.
Today we heard news that the Government won’t ban combustible cladding.
That is impossible to comprehend after what has happened at #Grenfell.
History tells a story. We know, from #Hillsborough and #Orgreave just how long working class communities have to wait for justice.
#Orgreave are still waiting.
It’s important that trade unions do what trade unions have been doing for over a hundred years. We offer solidarity in whatever form is acceptable.
Barnet UNISON will continue to support #Grenfell residents in order they don’t have to wait 20 years for justice.
The next #Grenfell Silent march is on Thursday 14 June, 6.30.
If you would like to join the Barnet UNISON banner on the march simply contact the branch on 0208 359 2088 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For those unable to make the 14 May, there is a protest organised by the Fire Brigades Union on Saturday 16, June, 12 noon assemble outside Downing Street, SW1A 1AA
Professor Dexter Whitfield’s report charts the origins of easyCouncil from its birth under the Leadership of Mike Freer MP right through to the present. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the dangers of outsourcing.
“The One Barnet programme has cost at least a staggering £23.66m to date, a substantial part of which was paid to management consultants engaged to legitimize Barnet Council’s outsourcing strategy.”
“Barnet Council uses agency staff on an industrial scale, spending nearly £20m in 2016-17 alone on a contract with Comensura Limited (Impellam Group plc).”
“It is equally likely that the cost of commissioning has soared because the Council miscalculated the costs of contract management and monitoring.”
“Council has drastically reduced staffing hours in Barnet Libraries by 70.4%”
“Critical OFSTED reviews in April and May 2017 concluded that Barnet’s services for children were ‘inadequate’ in all reported categories and graded ‘requires improvement’.”
“The Commissioner concluded that “…services have deteriorated significantly over the last five years” and identified flaws in the management of children’s services and the commissioning model.”
“The Disability and Learning Service was transferred to the LATC but projected budget surpluses in the first year turned into significant losses leading to a £1m bailout from the LATC.”
“Barnet Council’s LATC created TBG Flex Limited to exploit deregulation and the LATC and Barnet workforce by the imposition of inferior terms and conditions on new permanent and temporary staff.”
“Barnet is a vitally important lesson that every outsourcing proposal should be challenged from the start, if necessary through the options appraisal, business case and procurement process, whilst promoting alternative policies, workplace organising, building community support and taking selective industrial action.”Dexter Whitfield, Director, European Services Strategy Unit and Adjunct Associate Professor, Australian Industrial Transformation Institute, Flinders University, Adelaide.
“I want to salute the tenacity and resolve of Barnet UNISON who have fought a decade-long heroic struggle against outsourcing by the London Borough of Barnet. The ‘Future Shape’, ‘easyCouncil’ and ‘One Barnet’ programme is effectively dead as a result of Barnet UNISON. The last four services subjected to the alternative delivery model assessment all remained in-house. Under a Labour Government the default position for the delivery of public services will no longer be outsourcing. A Labour Government will place our trust in the public sector to deliver public services.” John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, Labour Party.
“For anyone looking to organise a campaign against outsourcing, must and should read this report. It provides a valuable insight into the challenges our branch and our community have had to face over the past decade. The amount of money spent on consultants to deliver this political ideology is heart-breaking when considering cuts to frontline services that have been imposed. This was money that could and should have been spent on our social care services and our library services. This report provides a stark warning of the consequences of rejecting in-house services in favour of outsourcing. Everything I feared would happen has happened, the sooner a managed plan to bring services back in-house is put in place the better.” John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON.
Dexter Whitfield on campaigning against outsourcing
Barnet UNISON members are key stakeholders in the Barnet Pension Local Government Scheme.
Barnet UNISON has been in discussions with Barnet Council and Capita for over 14 months in relation to most of the concerns identified in the recent Audit of the Pension Administration Service. We are presently meeting with Capita Pensions and senior officers to go through ongoing and sometime new emerging issues on behalf of our members.
As part of our role in support of our members, Barnet UNISON has the following questions for the Pension Fund Committee:
“I want to thank members of the Pension Board in particular the Chair for the statement above. Barnet UNISON had already raised a large good deal of the concerns detailed in the audit report mentioned at the Pension Board meeting with our employer. We share the grave concerns expressed so concisely by the Chair of the Pensions Board, however we do not share the optimism of the Council that a service improvement plan will be sufficient. Shortly after Capita took over the Pension Service, staff were made redundant as the service was moved to Darlington. The service is not comparable to the in-house service provided by our members. It our view that the Council should begin negotiations for the service to be brought back in-house. Joining a Pension Scheme is one of the most important financial decisions a worker can make, which is why I am inviting UNISON members who are in the Local Government Pension Scheme to join me at the Barnet Council Pension Fund Committee meeting on Monday 26 February 2018, at 7 pm Hendon Town Hall” (John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON)
Full details of Pensions Fund Committee meeting here
“It would be an understatement to say this is the most important item on the agenda this evening.
In this context I must remind us all that the London Borough of Barnet Pension Fund Board acts in support of the Pensions Committee.
It is the Pensions Committee of the London Borough of Barnet which is, I think, composed exclusively of Councillors which is as it were operationally in charge of our the entire pensions operation.
It is the job of the Pension Fund Board to advise the Pension Committee to encourage it and warn it, but of course the Pension Fund Board is a public body open to members of the public, our agenda is public and so it should be.
I would be derelict in my duty as chair of your board if I did not put on the record for our minutes the grave concerns of the Pensions Fund Board with the current situation concerning Messrs Capita.
Now I am pleased to say that I have observer status on the Pension Fund Committee.
The Pension Fund Committee will be meeting later this month.
The reason that I am an observer there at the next meeting is actually, technically, formally speaking, to present the annual report of the Pension Fund Board to the Pension Fund Committee.
But I don’t want anyone to be in any doubt particularly Messrs Capita that I should use that opportunity to relay to the Pension Fund Committee the concerns and anxieties of this board in relation to the Pension Fund Committee, and the boroughs relationship with Messrs Capita.
In that connection, I would like to first move formally from the Chair that the report we have just been discussing, although it is already a public document, none the less that it be communicated formally to the Pension Fund Committee.
Can I take that as approved?
I must then point out a certain chronological scenario and my understanding of the contract between the Borough of Barnet and mentioned Messrs Capita, is that it provides inter alia for a series of remedy notices as an official term to be issued and members of the Pension Fund Board, will know, that one remedy notice the first was issued, I think last year, last August after the Borough was fined by the Pensions Regulator.
So colleagues, I would not be at all surprised, I would not be at all surprised, if, by the next time the Pension Fund Board meets then, there is some intimation of a second remedy notice.
I’m not saying that it is imminent but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case.
My understanding is and I am advised that if a third remedy notice is issued this would mean, I am very much looking to my colleague on my immediate left, to correct me if I am wrong, that this would mean that the borough would be at an imminent state of taking back the contract, yes?
Thank you I am grateful for that clarification.
Our job is to advise the Pension Fund Committee, encourage and support and that’s the purpose of the statement I am making.
In that connection, summarising very broadly there are two overriding concerns that this board has, our main concerns communication with members and the quality of the data.
There are other concerns, but those two top ones, and when I present the annual report of this board to the Pension Fund Committee at the end of this month and when presumably now we have agreed I should also present formally the report we have been discussing.
I shall advise, encourage and warn the Pensions Fund Committee to be exceedingly vigilant on these issues, before the next meeting of the next of this Pension Fund Board, of course this will be an item it goes without saying at the next agenda
In the last few months Senior Library Managers, consultants and other Library staff have been in Barnet Libraries during Self-Service hours wearing green T-shirts bearing the words “Here to help”. The Council is employing them to encourage the public to use self-service machines and people to sign up for access to unstaffed opening hours. Many members of the public are under the misguided impression these are the volunteers as described by the Council in various statements concerning the Library changes. This situation has arisen because the Council has failed to recruit volunteers for Libraries.
In June this year Barnet UNISON raised objections to the Council imposing Here to Help duties on Library workers. We did this because our members had informed us of their concerns around this issue.
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At Barnet UNISON we were appalled to hear of the racist abuse being expressed against the planning application for an Islamic Centre at the Hippodrome in Golders Green.
The title of this piece comes from the press officer, Ahmed Al-Kazemi, of the Hippodrome Centre in Golders Green. This is just one comment made to appeal to those who would condemn the opening of the centre as an Islamic Centre on racial grounds.
We welcome and would echo the comments made by Rabbi Mark Goldsmith, of the Golders Green Alyth Reform congregation and Laura Marks, chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust condemning the racism and appealing to a prouder anti-racist tradition.
We also support Barnet Council’s decision to remove all comments relating to this planning application from the public domain on its website.
We celebrate the fact that when the Bravanese Islamic Centre was tragically burnt down a few years ago, the response from all Faiths in the community and people from the broad anti-racist political spectrum was quick in rallying round to support that community and show solidarity.
This is the kind of Barnet we want to belong to.
We would very much like to be a part of a similar response to the racist abuse being levied at the Hippodrome Centre now.
For background information please read these articles: