Barnet UNISON report Policy and Resources Committee 6th January 2020.

Barnet UNISON report

Policy and Resources Committee

 6th January 2020.

 

SUMMARY

With respect to the decision made at the last P&R Committee, Council officers have, at best, not complied with the request and at worst have misled the Committee.

RECOMMENDATION

The Officers are required to investigate the actual costs associated with implementing the London Living Wage for the ex-Fremantle workers.

BACKGROUND

Over the past decade one thing Barnet UNISON is in agreement with Barnet Council is that the London Living Wage is the lowest rate of pay for its staff and those working on outsourced contracts.

Within the Barnet Group the minimum rate of pay for staff in Barnet Homes, TBG Flex (The Barnet Group Flex) and Your Choice Barnet is the London Living Wage – including posts which become vacant within the ex-Fremantle homes.

After a settling in period for the TUPE Fremantle staff Barnet UNISON raised in discussions with the employer the issue of paying these staff the London Living Wage as the lowest level of pay. We believe these staff should be treated no differently to other staff working for Barnet Council or on its outsourced contracts.

Barnet UNISON notes the decision regarding a discussion about implementing the London Living Wage for Fremantle TUPE transferred staff to Your Choice Barnet at the Policy and Resources Committee 3rd October 2019 is recorded in the draft minutes as:

“Following discussion on the London Living Wage for Fremantle staff who had been TUPE transferred to Your Choice Barnet the Chairman agreed to an item on the feasibility being brought back to the next Committee. This would be included in the Business Planning report”

In response to this request from Councillors the Business Planning Report dedicates a mere 2 paragraphs which is listed under “Risks to the MTFS”

  • Fremantle Care workers (London Living Wage): Former Fremantle staff were TUPE transferred to YCB in July 2018 under the agreement that terms and conditions would be protected for 1 year.  Some former Fremantle care workers that have been transferred to the Barnet Group may be being paid less than the London Living Wage (£10.75 per hour (as at Nov 2019)). The Barnet Group policy is to pay all its workers at least the London Living Wage, subject to affordability, and a HR process is now required to review any changes to terms and conditions which will need to be considered.

 

Any decision about changes to terms and conditions will need to be considered in the context of the overall pay and reward strategy for the Barnet Group, employment policies and legislation, the wider social care market and the council’s procurement rules.   It is not yet possible to quantify the level of risk associated as it is too early to form a conclusion about the application of the LLW to TUPE staff. However, officers in the Barnet Group supported by council colleagues where necessary will be working on this over the coming months and can provide further update to the committee in the future.

These two paragraphs responding to the Committee’s request in no way reflects the response Barnet UNISON or the care workers were expecting. We had expected a detailed report detailing the cost implications for implementing the London Living Wage. Instead this response kicks the question into the long grass.

This is absurd as all new vacancies in the ex-Fremantle homes are advertised as paying the London Living Wage as a minimum. These posts are open to existing Fremantle staff to apply for those posts. This means that incrementally at least some of these staff working in these homes will be all be employed on the London Living Wage. This fact is not even listed in the 2 paragraphs written by the officers. This means this risk is already a reality and yet it is not mentioned or evaluated. No turnover rates are mentioned. Is it ironic that a credible option for the ex-Fremantle staff to en masse resign from their posts and then to reapply for posts in the new homes which would have to be offered at the London Living Wage?

The report in no way reflects the request made of the Committee to the officers. A “feasibility” was requested not the “risks”. Furthermore the Councillors are asked to believe that the officers are incapable of quantifying the “level of risk” associated with “the application of the LLW to TUPE staff.”

Barnet UNISON can be of assistance to the officers and councillors in understanding some of the implications by revealing the inaccuracy of the sentence: “Some former Fremantle care workers […] may be being paid less than the London Living Wage”. (Our italics)

TUPE information from Fremantle in May/ June 2019 revealed that just under 300 staff were TUPE transferred. Of these, according to the figures given for the job titles and the rates of pay quoted for those job titles, some two thirds were listed as being paid below the London Living Wage. In total these were 222 staff. The largest group are the care workers which total some 143 workers and are nearly half of the ex-Fremantle workforce.

Care work is a physically demanding role as well as an emotionally demanding role. Yet according to the TUPE transfer information 161 members of staff are aged 55 years and over and of these 40 are aged 66 years and over. By contrast the numbers of staff aged under 40 years are 76.

 

RISK

There is a risk in not paying the London Living Wage as this report demonstrates:

https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/adult-social-care-workforce-data/Workforce-intelligence/documents/State-of-the-adult-social-care-sector/State-of-Report-2019.pdf

In the Care industry there is a national turnover rate of 38% for those working less than one year in the field (p.13). It shows that those who are paid more are less likely to leave their roles.

“Turnover at regulated services that were rated overall as either ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’, turnover was found to be lower (29.5%) than those rated as ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ (32.2%). This trend remained consistent across each Key Line of Enquiry (KLOE) with an average difference of 2.7%. The largest difference in turnover was shown for the ‘Safe’ KLOE which had 3.4% lower turnover at providers rated positively.” (p.118)

Continuity is an important factor in delivering quality care and support to our most vulnerable residents. There are associated costs in constantly recruiting and inducting new members of staff. These can result in reputational and safeguarding costs.

Barnet UNISON strives to work with both the Council and quasi outsourced employers, such as the Barnet Group, in continuing to promote harmonious industrial relations and to provide a high level of service for our customers. This may, potentially, be put in jeopardy if the decision is not to value monetarily the important role that care workers perform.

These factors should be of importance to this Committee and to Councillors in general and should be taken more seriously than the response to the request from Council officer’s shows.

 

Colindale office UNISON H&S Inspection

 

Colindale office UNISON H&S Inspection

Background

Barnet Group to move staff and operations from Barnet House to new office site in Colindale. Move to commence June 2019.

UNISON representatives from the Barnet Group undertook a Health and Safety Inspection of the new site 12/4/19.

 


Housing Options Reception

 

Current arrangements – Barnet House

Client’s visiting Housing Options are initially held on the ground floor.

This means they can be searched away from Housing Options staff, and for security to confirm who has an appointment.

If there is an incident on the 2nd floor, clients can be held downstairs.

There is also space for client’s to wait and call Housing Options if they don’t have an appointment (as Housing Options is appointment only), although in some cases clients use phones on the second floor to contact benefit advisers etc.

UNISON notes that part of current security arrangements mean that when clients initially arrive at the building they can only gain access to the 2nd floor prior to being searched, and that the one member of reception staff on the ground floor is behind protective glass.

Current statistics on Barnet House anti-social, verbal and physical abuse incidents are too low – UNISON is concerned that there is a culture where abuse of staff is tolerated and incidents not recorded.

Proposed arrangements – Colindale

The proposed new reception has entrances straight from the street with clients queuing up and being searched in the reception area.

UNISON has been informed that there will be no barriers by the entrance, however there will be a reception desk with one or two security guards [to be confirmed], and a side room for more extensive searches.

Total security presence on the ground floor Housing Options Reception area has, as yet to be identified.

Concerns:

 

  1. As there is no protective barrier between clients and staff, clients could throw objects or liquids at staff without/before being searched.

  1. A violent client can push past security and gain access to staff without being searched.

  1. Customers in winter will not want to queue outside meaning they will be in the reception and potentially have access to staff without being searched.

  1. If there is an incident that requires security staff to deal with a violent client, there is no provision to stop other clients from entering the building.

  1. No way of stopping the flow of people to the entrance from outside the building whilst an incident is being managed.

  1. Housing Options regularly have violent clients who need to be removed from the building, there will be a safety issue in removing a disruptive client if other clients are queuing at the entrance.

  1. Housing Options clients include a high proportion of very vulnerable people, including children, who can be waiting the majority of the day for temporary accommodation – this will be unmanageable in the small space provided.

  1. Housing Options staff deal with many victims of domestic violence who may be fleeing violent and abusive partners. At the moment the proposed seating arrangements for people waiting for temporary accommodation mean that clients would be visible from the street through the large glass walls. This could potentially put both the victim of abuse and staff and other clients in danger if the perpetrator of the abuse sees them and would be traumatic for the vulnerable client.

  1. If a client doesn’t have an appointment there appears to be no place where they can call Housing Options to be triaged and assessed prior to seeing a member of staff. This needs to be resolved.

  1. General issues of safety in such a small space given that on a busy day Housing Options staff can have up to five or six families waiting to be seen by staff at any time, as well as families waiting for temporary accommodation.

  1. There does not seem to be any thought been given to the ‘maximum’ number of people that can be in the Housing Options Reception area at any one time.

  1. The Housing Options reception will be shared with Officers from Rental Income, Neighbourhood Housing, Antisocial Behaviour Officers and Leasehold Officers as the only secure interview space for staff to meet with customers. This will lead to severe delays in clients being interviewed. Staff may be tempted or feel pressurised into interviewing clients elsewhere in an unsafe environment due to lack of resources.

  1. Barnet Group Health and Safety Officers have not been given the opportunity to complete a joint inspection with UNISON.

  1. As there will be very limited space/privacy, clients visiting the interview area may be put in the position of having to disclose personal information and details which could be overheard by other members of the public, breaching Data Protection guidelines.

  1. There seems to be a lack of toilet facilities for clients in the Reception area and none in the waiting area.

Fire Safety

 

  1. Fire safety – Number of Fire Points. No fire safety documentation has been provided, as yet, in regard to the number of fire call points in each area.

  1. Disabled access – Unison request more details on this, particularly emergency procedures and evacuation protocols.

  1. UNISON is in ongoing dialogue with the Council and facilities in regard to evacuation protocol and PEEPs [see attached Appendix]

 

 

General Building Health and Safety Concerns

  1. No details available/provided of the building Temperature Control system.

  1. Toilets – at least one single gender toilet should be provided – Cubicles seem quite small for those who may need to wash upper bodies before prayer also wash hand basins are very small. Disabled toilets (public) Access? Mobility WCs should have grab aids on both sides of pan – not all users transfer from same side.

  1. Security arrangements for main building – can this be confirmed and Risk Assessments shared.

  1. Currently no provision where other Barnet Homes staff [not Housing Options] will be able to interview visitors. Lease Hold Services currently have visitors who drop off Right to Buy applications and attend RTB interviews and financial interviews. Rental Income Team, Neighbourhood Housing and Antisocial Behaviour Officers will need access to secure interview areas. Operations guidelines for these services need to be identified and fully Risk Assessed before the service is implemented.

  1. Main reception – the entrance doors partially obscured by stairs to 1st floor and a pillar, what security provision has been made to cover the ‘blind spot’?

  1. Roof garden – railings on the roof are low and easily accessible.

  1. Originally staff were advised that teams would have designated areas of work and on plans these were shaded in. UNISON has now been informed that all areas are hot desks. Does this mean that those who work from 10am will never get a desk?

  1. Cycle parking seems to be very limited – not under cover and just the metal hoop types – as the Barnet Group and the Council is encouraging staff to cycle to work more will need to be provided.

  1. Car parking Areas are located some distance from the main building – staff safety in walking to these areas needs to be Risk Assessed and shared.

  1. Car parks – need to be inspected for adequate lighting – it is unclear if any other safety measures will be put in place [such as CCTV] before the building becomes operational.

 

 

Risks

 

As there is no filter system for members of the public on entering the reception area clients will have to disclose personal details to security/reception and be overheard by other members of the public. The Barnet Group may be in held in breach of General Data Protection Regulations should a member of the public/client make a complaint.

Safeguarding of vulnerable clients visiting the Housing Options reception area is a priority – if victims of domestic abuse don’t feel safe to access council services and be seen by an Officer without the possibility of the perpetrator of the abuse seeing them then they won’t do it.

 

There is an overriding detrimental concern for Barnet Group staff Health and Safety putting the Barnet Group in legal jeopardy.

In addition, the Health and Safety of the Public could be put at risk leaving the Barnet Group open to litigation.

Staff in Housing Options have made it clear to UNISON that the proposed reception area is fundamentally unsafe.

As previously identified the recording/reporting of incidents at the Barnet House Reception is poor – This cannot continue at the new site.

UNISON is given to understand that many of these issues have been raised by staff and line-managers across the whole of Housing Options, but as yet the concerns have not been addressed.

If frontline staff are essentially expected to work in a dangerous environment UNISON will be left with no alternative other than to act on members concerns, inevitably leading to a breakdown in Industrial Relations, if the identified risks are not addressed before Housing Options reception becomes operational.

 

Recommendations

 

  1. Meaningful dialogue between UNISON, management and staff in regard to Housing Options reception to resolve the issues identified and the suitability of the Colindale site.

  1. Security provision to be identified and established, (including lines of reporting and training) and fully Risk Assessed before the building becomes operational.

  1. Public access procedures identified and fully Risk Assessed.

  1. Anti-social behaviour policy in regard to prospective clients to be produced and a zero tolerance of abuse towards staff to be implemented.

  1. Risk Assessments for the reception and interview areas, including those for violent and abusive members of the public to be completed.

  1. A further joint UNISON Health and Safety inspection in conjunction with Barnet Group Health and Safety Officers to be arranged to assess risks to staff and the public before the building becomes operational.

  1. UNISON to work in conjunction with Barnet Group Health and Safety Officers to encourage staff and managers to record/report any incidents of physical and verbal abuse. UNISON and Barnet Group H&S to co-operate, investigate cases of concern and produce joint recommendations.

  1. Safeguarding of vulnerable clients to be acknowledged and addressed contacting  the Safeguarding team at the Council about the risk to  vulnerable adults, children and the victims of domestic abuse visiting the Colindale site would be recommended.

  1. General Data Protection Regulation issues to be acknowledged and measures put in place to minimise risk.

  1. UNISON suggests that Housing Options clients use the main council reception when they first arrive, enabling clients to be filtered to the Housing Options reception once it has been confirmed that they are due to be seen by an Officer. This would significantly reduce the flow of people through the main Housing Options front entrance, It would also have the bonus of freeing up space as clients could wait in the main reception for temporary accommodation and the officers from the TA team (soon to be Housing Solutions team) come straight down in the lift to the main reception area . This would be a better solution for clients as there is a Costa Coffee in the foyer for their use while waiting to be seen.

Conclusion

Given the unpredictable nature of Housing Options operations as the tragic incident on the 2nd floor last year demonstrated – UNISON recommends that the concerns of staff, managers and Trade Unions should be fully addressed and the suitability of the proposed Colindale site fully assessed before the Housing Options Reception Area becomes operational.

 

 

The Council’s New Housing Strategy – Increase rents by £100 a week


 An extra £100 a week on rents for new build council homes and re-let council homes being transferred to Open Door Homes (ODH) – the Council’s housing development company.

The plan will mean council tenants in new and re-let homes owned by ODH will have to pay £209 a week for a 2-bedroom home compared with £109 a week currently charged for a council home.

Exploiting the most vulnerable in our community – people in need of Housing may no longer be able to afford this – a disgrace – The Barnet Group is an experiment that needs to be brought back in house and do what they are supposed to do – PROVIDE COUNCIL HOUSING!!!!

In the Labour Group’s submission to the draft Housing Strategy consultation, Labour’s Lead on Housing – Cllr Paul Edwards said: “Barnet Homes (Open Door) is a social landlord and should be providing social rent homes at rates in line with the Mayor’s plan. So, the rent should be no more than 50% of market rates, which is a more socially just rent to ask for than 65% and is in line with the Mayor’s plan.

“The high 65% social rent is the main reason Barnet Council were not able to secure more grant from the GLA – why would the Mayor invest in building new social rent homes that are not going to be affordable to those on low incomes?”

Cllr Edwards also criticised the lack of ambition to deliver more affordable homes across all development, and called for the affordable homes target to be increased from 40% of all new homes to 50%. The Conservatives voted against this as well.

Ends.
Notes:
1. The Council’s new Housing Strategy can be found here (Agenda Item 8):

http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/g9740/Public%20reports%20pack%2001st-Apr-2019%2019.00%20Housing%20Committee.pdf?T=10

Barnet Homes ASSIST

Image result for barnet group

Barnet Group ASSIST proposals

 

Barnet UNISON is currently in negotiations with The Barnet Group in relation to the recommendations below.

Needless to say, Barnet UNISON is opposed to cuts to this vital front line service and opposed to the night operator service being outsourced.

The proposed recommendation to move to bench marked salaries would have grave implications for ALL Barnet Group staff irrespective of whether they are employed on a traditional Barnet Homes contract, which is protected by the 2006 TUPE agreement from LBB, or, a TBG Flex contract.

If Barnet Group Management continue with the intention to break with the current nationally agreed pay structure in the Barnet Homes and the TBG Flex paystructure, Barnet UNISON will be left with no alternative other than consult with ALL employees that would potentially be effected.

 

The Barnet Homes Board approved the following on Monday 18th June.

 

Recommendation

It is fully acknowledged that Assist is an essential and greatly valued service and the focus will be on how the service is supported to grow. However, the current cost base does not support the services ability to bid for new business and cannot continue to be provided in its existing form if the growth aspirations are to be achieved.

 

The proposed changes are not made to cut costs just to make the numbers balance, but are made to modernise the service. The result of the changes are lower costs as we plan to combine our call centre functions and tender the current night operators service. Jobs will be offered in the call centre where they are available but they will be different.

 

The measures that need to be taken if Assist is to continue to provide an operator and mobile response service to its current customers and to win additional services to support the growth imperative are stated below.

 

There have been 4 different options that have been consulted on with the Assist staff and following feedback the following is recommended.

 

  • The Assist service provides a limited operator service during office hours and buys in the out of hours call monitoring.
  • All Assist daytime operators, mobile response officers, management and admin teams will be matched to the bench marked high rate salaries, aligned to NJC Outer London Spinal points.
  • Enhancements and shift allowances will no longer be paid.
  • 3.3 full time equivalent operator posts (125 hours) will be co-located to work within the contact centre carrying out the same duties as they currently do, during office hours (8am-6pm), this option will add another facet to the Barnet Homes Call Centre further supporting the diversity of work that this service area carries.
  • The current night operators will be consulted with and will either be TUPE’d to the procured provider, be redeployed within The Barnet Group, or be made redundant.
  • Where the impact of the changes to individual’s salaries and contractual obligations are impacted negatively by -10% (gross) or higher they will be offered redeployment or redundancy if a suitable alternative cannot be found.
  • All mobile response officer (MRO) work patterns will be reviewed to ensure that there is full cover for the service and capacity for growth
  • There will be a reduction of one senior post
  • The standby rate will remain at £26.76, this will be cost neutral for the Barnet MRO’s and an increase for the Brent MRO’s
  • Removal of the car allowance with all mileage paid at 60p per mile.

 

FAT CAT PROFITS