Another tragic outsourcing disaster for catering workers in Barnet

Earlier this week our branch was notified by private contractor ISS that they were giving notice to end the Kosher kitchen contract.

This was not a surprise because a number of other schools had already left this contract with ISS earlier this year.

This news is deeply troubling as it feels that the contract is unravelling and those who will be hurt will be the workforce.

When this service was a Council one it was highly successful in generating income to the Council and competing with the private sector.

The workforce was on Barnet Council Terms and Conditions and all had access to the Council Pension Scheme. Moreover, no worker would have been earning less than the London Living Wage.

At the time senior officers responded that nothing would change for staff after they were outsourced but that simply wasn’t true (see the background notes at end of this report).

What actually happened was that some schools started to pull out of the contract with ISS, and sometimes that meant being transferred to yet another contractor some of whom do not pay the London Living Wage and whose Terms and Conditions are appalling in comparison to those of the Council.

Once again it is a mainly female workforce that is being exploited and exposed to the brutality of the race to the bottom agenda of the outsourcing ideology that has blighted so many lives.

I wonder how many schools realise what impact their decisions about Catering are having on this workforce and the families that depend on them.

Schools are education settings promoting opportunities for children to learn and develop, yet at the same time they have responsibilities for the workforce they employ either directly or indirectly through use of contractors. Catering and Cleaning workers are two examples of an exploited workforce, a workforce that is regularly passed from one employer to another. The dehumanising experience of outsourcing and low pay is something which needs to end and it’s something about which Barnet UNISON will not stay silent or allow itself to be gagged.

Background to Catering outsourcing:

The Catering service was outsourced by Barnet Council in 2016.

Barnet UNISON opposed the outsourcing and demanded that:

“The Council should retain the Catering Service in-house and place it within Family Services Delivery Unit in order that all the profits can support frontline services, which are threatened by budget cuts. It should draw up a Public Service Innovation and Improvement Plan for the future of the Catering Service jointly with schools and staff.”

In our report to Councillors we stated:

“The Council is proposing to outsource Education & Skills and Catering services. Yet the Catering Service is a good example of a successful in-house service that has made efficiency improvements and competed with the private sector outside Barnet to win contracts. The Education & Skills and Catering Full Business Case reports an increase in the Catering service annual traded surplus of £241,770, a 3.33% profit, an increase from the 2.67% annual surplus in the Outline Business Case. Furthermore, there is a strong case for all the Education & Skills services to be retained in-house.”

Our report was ignored.

Barnet UNISON was seriously concerned about the impact of outsourcing on this workforce. This is a workforce where:

  • 93% of the total Education & Skills and Catering workforce is female with the Catering Service accounting for an even higher proportion at 96%.
  • 49% of the Catering workforce are Asian and Asian British, Black or Black British or Chinese or other ethnic group compared to 34% white employees based on the available data.



Global giant ISS restricts rights of former Barnet Council catering workers

“TUPE or not TUPE” that is the stressful question for our outsourced ISS Catering workers

ISS Pay roll changes put low paid workers at risk.

History of the outsourcing of Schools Meals and Education & Skills services

BREAKINGNEWS: Mott MacDonald and Barnet Council in contract termination talks

BreakingNEWS: Update bin workers overtime claim

Update: 12 May 2021

In our meeting with the Chief Executive we submitted a new proposal in which we believe will ensure that our members working in Waste & Recycling are paid the fair rate of time and half for working on a Saturday.

We repeated the facts that other Council workers in Libraries, Social Services and the Registrar Service all have local agreements why are the Council refusing the same for Waste & Recycling workers.

Barnet UNISON made it clear that if we don’t have an agreement we are ready to ballot our members.

The Chief Executive said they would need a few days to consider our proposal and we have agreed to a final meeting early next week.

There will be further updates early next week.




Pay slips and the Barnet Council Pension Scheme

Lots of our members have had problems understanding their pay slips and many of our members are not aware of the 50/50 pension options.

We are pleased to announced that Barnet Council have agreed to put on an online meeting for all Street Scene staff to look at:

  1. Understanding your pay slip
  2. The benefits of the Barnet Council Pension Scheme

Date: Tuesday 11 May 6 – 7 pm

To join the meeting simply click on the link below

Join the Pensions and Payroll information webinar on 11 May at 18:00 -19:00


*** Please note this is NOT a UNISON meeting


We Are Barnet rally Weds 19 May 2021


Support #WeAreBarnet frontline workers by registering to join our second public rally on Weds 19 May 2021 6.30 to 7.30 pm

#WeAreBarnet #EqualityAndJustice

Pay Barnet Bin Workers the right rate for the job now!

Dear member

We know that Barnet Bin workers want to be paid the right rate for working on the Green Waste Saturday service.

On 11 February 2021 Barnet UNISON submitted a claim for time and half for working on Green Waste Saturday service for the following reasons:

  1. Street Scene management are currently paying agency workers time and half for working on a Saturday.
  2. Barnet Council has other Council workers who are working time and half on a Saturday and double time on a Sunday.
  3. Street Scene management agree that paying time and half is affordable.
  4. Because the pay is so low a lot of members are already working six days a week for Barnet Council and want to maintain the right to have a weekend off when they choose.
  5. Barnet residents are now paying £70 for green waste collection which is generating millions of pounds to the service.
  6. Waste and Recycling workers have been working throughout the COVID pandemic.
  7. Waste and Recycling workers delivered an excellent service over the Christmas and New Year.
  8. Barnet believes that our members have shown that they can be relied on to work through the pandemic and have delivered through the Christmas and New Year period.
  9. Our members had to be flexible when working around the well documented issues with the last bin collection changes.
  10. Our members had to work around a depot that turned into a building site for almost 12 months due to serious subsidence.
  11. Our members are having to work in a depot that is too small for the number of staff which are now based there.
  12. There are not enough toilets and other welfare facilities in the depot.
  13. Our members are working outside during COVID with nowhere to take breaks due to COVID restrictions.

What do Barnet Council have to say?

On 1 April 2021 Barnet Council responded stating they will only pay time and a half if Bin workers give up their right to a weekend by accepting a change to their contract?

Last year Barnet Bin Workers in a strike ballot voted to reject this proposal to change their contracts.

What are Barnet UNISON doing now?

  • We are organising an informal strike ballot of all of our members working in Waste & Recycling.
  • We have requested an urgent Joint Negotiating Consultative Group (JNCG) meeting with the Chief Executive.

If we do not reach an agreement with the Council at the meeting above Barnet UNISON will have no option but to formally declare a trades dispute and seek support from UNISON National for a legal strike ballot as per our procedures.

We want our members to be treated fairly and with respect.

Keep a look out for news about your ballot paper

*Library workers work every other Saturday and their overtime is contractual. Library workers who work on a Sunday are paid double time and it is not contractual. However there are staff working in social services and the Registrars Service who work Saturday and are paid time and a half and it is not contractual.


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