How can private sector contractors get two bites of the public purse?

In Barnet we have a number of contractors who won contracts taking on former Council workers.

There has been a lot of publicity about furlough payments but this is something that hasn’t been an issue within the Council.

However as the lockdown is still with us and the end date seems far away a number of our members have had furloughing enforced.

Why enforced as furloughing does require consultation?

When a worker is told either accept furloughing which means a 20% cut in pay or we put you on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) which as we know is only around £95 a week, which is not an option for the worker.

What is worrying is the length of time that workers could be left on furlough and the obvious financial hardship and mental distress that will bring.

It is a sad fact that it is the lowest paid workers that are facing this furlough  attack on their economic security at a time when they are already stressing about the dangers of contracting and passing on COVID 19.

If these workers had not been outsourced they would not be facing this cut in their pay.

What can be done?

The biggest group of our members are Catering workers who are employed by global giant ISS.

Barnet UNISON was informed at the last minute that the whole workforce was being furloughed.

However, Barnet Council have intervened and ensured that these low paid workers will not face a 20% cut in pay by topping up the difference.

Capita however, are simply asking staff either to volunteer to take a 20% cut in pay or in some cases they present another option by what I have referred to as forced furlough as no workers can afford to be paid SSP.

Barnet UNISON asked Capita to top up the 20% but they refused citing company policy.

Who should be topping up?

The furlough scheme involves the Government paying up to 80% of the workers wages leaving a 20% pay cut for the worker.

By placing a worker on the furlough the private contractor makes a 100% saving in that they are not paying the worker.

However, they are still receiving their money from the Council for delivering the services they were contracted to provide.

It does seem wrong that when a private contractor wins a contract to deliver public services which would have ordinarily been provided by the Council, then they should surely during this crisis continue to pay the staff regardless of whether for the duration of the this crisis. Instead they appear to be making more money from the public purse.

Last week Mr Reasonable published the latest Barnet Council spend on the two Capita contracts.

In his post “I’m Still Keeping an Eye on Barnet’s Finances”

“The money paid to Capita this year seems almost beyond belief especially at a time when they have performed so poorly to the point that the pensions administration has been taken away from them. This financial year they were paid more than double the contracted sum, £83.2 million versus the contracted sum of £39.7 million and in total for the duration of the contract we have paid them £189.5 million more than the contracted value.”

How can Capita justify placing staff on furlough when they are reaping in this amount of money  (£82.2 million in one year) just from Barnet Council, not to mention the 100% saving they make from putting some of their staff on the furlough scheme, this be.

Things really do have to change and that is the public purse must not be used to bailout the private sector at the expense of public services and the low paid, key workers that have continued to deliver services throughout this crisis.


Breaking News: Barnet UNISON ending Lockdown survey results


We asked our members (most of whom are working from home) one question.

“Do you feel that it is safe for you to go back to work?”

94% of our School UNISON members felt it was not safe.

85% of our Capita UNISON members felt it was not safe.

79% of our Barnet Council UNISON members felt it was not safe.

79% of our Barnet Homes members felt it was not safe



Capita refusing share COVID risk assessments with Barnet UNISON

Dear Members

Barnet UNISON as part of our efforts to ensure all of our members was safe contacted Capita in order that we could take part in the Risk Assessment consultation process.

Our branch has been busy for the last 8 weeks supporting and advising our members working and dealing with the COVID 19 risk in the workplace.

Whilst many staff are able to work from home there are staff who have to go out into the community to deal with the public.

It is important that all employers comply with Health and Safety Legislation in relation to Risk Assessments.

Now more than ever all employers should understand the importance of carrying out Risk Assessments for all of their staff in order they can provide assurances their workplace is safe.

It is important to note but as of Friday 22 May 2020, Barnet UNISON has not been consulted on any Risk Assessment for any job role being carried out by our members on both Capita contracts.

We have seen a Capita generic Risk Assessment which as soon as we challenged it Capita admitted it was out of date.

Barnet UNISON was informed that Capita compliance team issued 3 generic risk assessments (which have seen) which we were told would be a starting point for discussions around role specific Risk Assessments for staff working on the two Barnet contracts.

This was positive news.

Barnet UNISON requested the contact details for the manager responsible for coordinating the Risk Assessments on both Capita contracts in Barnet.

Capita responded stating they will not share or agree all risk assessments as requested as this is not something as an organisation that we do.

The health, safety and welfare of our members working for Capita is a serious matter and as such we have escalated this matter to UNISON National as the following legislation must be followed by the employer.

It is worrying that in this current COVID Pandemic where serious and fatal risks are being faced by workers every day that any employer would refuse to share or agree Risk Assessments with a Trade Union.

Relevant Legislation: Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Regulation 3 – employers must conduct suitable and sufficient risk assessments

Regulation 4 – requires employer to control hazards at source

Regulation 7 – employer must appoint competent persons to conduct RA

Regulation 10 – workers must be given comprehensive and relevant information about risks

Regulation 13 – employers must ensure workers are capable and trained

Regulation 16/19 – RA must take account of women of child-bearing age and young people’s risks.

Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

Regulation 4 states:

Every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work except where and to the extent that such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective.

If you have any concerns please email the branch on






“COVID-19: How to make your workplace safe” Zoom meeting

Barnet UNISON as part of our Know Your Rights at Work campaign are hosting a

ZOOM meeting with NEU and GMB entitled:

“COVID-19: How to make your workplace safe”

Wednesday 27 May 6pm

Guest Speaker: Janet Newsham, Chair Hazards Campaign, sitting member of Employment Tribunal for past 25 years.

Meeting ID: 826 4021 4991

Password: 363400


URGENT: All Schools members please follow advice below.

Dear Members

URGENT: Please cut and paste the UNISON email to your Head Teacher immediately and copy in Barnet UNISON using



Dear head teacher/chair of governors

Government’s plans to increase number of pupils in schools from 1 June

I am writing to say how worried I am about the government’s plans to increase the numbers of pupils in some schools from 1 June and the potential threat they pose to the health and safety of pupils, parents and staff in our school community.

We all want to see schools up and running and our school community back together again, but only when it is safe to do so. Any plan to achieve this needs to be clear on issues such as social distancing, PPE, testing, tracing and isolation. The current government guidance is not.

My union, UNISON, is taking these issues up with government, calling on it to step back from an unsafe increase in pupil numbers on 1 June. Unions and the government need to work together to create the conditions for a safe return to schools, based on the principles and tests set out by education unions representing support staff, teachers and head teachers (see TUC statement).

I don’t believe that the current situation is the fault of the school or its leadership and I understand that the school has to plan for all eventualities. Therefore, my union has advised me to request that you urgently provide an update on the following issues:

  • Copy of school’s risk assessments for increasing pupil numbers
  • What the plans are for maintaining social distancing; with all pupils and staff to be kept 2 metres apart
  • What PPE will be supplied and under what circumstances
  • Arrangements for handwashing and sanitising
  • Arrangements for protecting vulnerable pupils and staff
  • How testing, tracing and isolating will work locally and how it will apply to our schools
  • Arrangements for screening out workers exhibiting symptoms of the virus
  • Plans for enhanced cleaning of workplaces,
  • Procedures for travel such as parking, using public transport, car sharing given the 2-metre rule

I think it is really important that we all stand together to ensure that everyone in the school and community is safe and that we meet health and safety laws. This means that we should only open up the school when is it safe to do so. My union and I do not believe that this is possible by 1 June.

Finally I would like it to be formally noted that my involvement in any meetings and discussions will be on the basis of a sharing of information only, and not my agreement to an unsafe reopening from 1 June.  I would further request that you enter into collective discussion with my union on the measures that need to be taken for a safe increase in pupil numbers, as stated by the DfE. I call on the school not to put pupils and staff at risk with an unsafe increase in numbers from 1 June.

Yours sincerely


“How To Reopen Schools Safely” : Barnet Joint Trade Unions zoom meeting

Barnet UNISON is hosting a Barnet Schools Zoom Meeting

Wednesday 20 May at 6 pm.

“How To Reopen Schools Safely”

Speakers: Jon Richards (UNISON), Kevin Courtney (Joint General Secretary NEU) GMLB speaker to be confirmed, NASUWT speaker to be confirmed

Joining details

Meeting ID: 865 5758 8815

Password: 328320



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