£5.73p per hour the “invisible workforce” nobody speaks about.

(The name of the worker have been changed for this article )

Gloria is a cleaner and earns £5.73p per hour. £5.73p is the legal national minimum wage, however it has been long recognised that cost of living for London residents means that there should be a London weighting added. On his election as London Mayor, Boris Johnson has honoured & championed (“Johnson said pay below this rate meant people were living in poverty even after benefits and tax credits were taken into account.”) the London Living Wage which stands at £7.60p per hour for all contracted staff. If Gloria was earning £7.60p per hour it would have a significant impact on the quality of life for her and her family. 


Gloria rises each day at 5 a.m. in order to catch a night bus into Barnet to begin what will be a 14 hour day which will see her work in a number of public sector buildings.


Her first job is in a school before the school opens, children start drifting into school while she is still working. The only person who will speak to Gloria is the caretaker. He will speak to Gloria about any changes to her normal duties and take up any issues about the standard of work she has done. No one else will notice or speak to Gloria, she is part of the school, yet she is not. She is in a school but has not had any training. In the event of a child making a disclosure, Gloria has no idea what she should do. In the time before privatisation the cleaning staff were part of the schools staff team and Gloria would have taken part in the Safeguarding training.


After finishing her shift Gloria has a few hours to kill as her next job is as a catering assistant in another school. She lives too far from home to return and so has to find somewhere to go to have something to eat as it is 5 hours since she left home.


A quick change into her uniform and Gloria is at work in the school kitchen. The catering service was privatised five years ago she is on the minimum wage and working for the next four hours. The work is hard and physically demanding. She is on her feet for most of the time, the work never seems to end.  


Gloria is leaving the school and heading for a college where she works for a different cleaning contractor, but still on £5.73p per hour!


For the next three hours she is cleaning classrooms, toilets, hallways….despite the fact she has been working there for a couple of years nobody says hello, she is invisible. ….


It’s 7 pm and Gloria is off her home it will be almost 9 pm before she arrives home.

In eight hours time she will be leaving for work!


What are the branch doing?

Barnet UNISON is part of the North London Citizens steering group, which is working towards the launch of North London Citizens. Lobbying both the private and public sectors to ensure that staff are at least on the London Living Wage is likely to be one of the aims of the organisation.


In Barnet our cleaners were privatised several years ago and unfortunately TUPE Plus was not on the negotiation table. The former ex council staff have been replaced with new staff on the minimum wage.


Our branch recently formally raised the issue of the cleaners pay & conditions with our employers and expect an update at our next meeting with our employers on 14 September.


Our branch believes cleaners should at least be on the London Living Wage and we are going to help make that happen.


We agree with the Mayor statement in the Guardian on 22 May 2009


“During these testing times, it is vital that we invest in order to pay Londoners a fair and decent wage,” Johnson said. 

“It also brings wider social benefits, tackling poverty, making work pay, and improving the quality of life for families……City Hall is leading by example, and we will certainly be paying the new London living wage across the GLA group as appropriate … I urge all London businesses to invest for the future by paying it too.”


What do you think?


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Here is your chance. 

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“Are the workers revolting?”

“Are the workers revolting?”

The latest occupation of the Danish owned Vestas factory in the Isle of Wight is but one of many examples of workers taking direct action to defend their livelihoods. At one stage it looked like the workers were being starved out of their occupation, but families & supporters have been trying to ensure food supplies are getting through.

 Even the Whiskey workers are revolting! 

Who pays for the financial collapse?

The answer it seems is Public Sector workers. It is hard to explain to members why they must pay after witnessed bankers being bailed out with OUR money. Because of their actions the public are being ‘groomed’ to accept their fate; unemployment, redundancies, rationing……rationing? Yes rationing, the Doomsday lobbyists are predicting a financial meltdown of epic proportions, worse than the Great Depression, worst in economic history ever??  

Perhaps not, ever wondered what happened to the great civilisations Egyptians, Aztecs, Inca’s? Could it be their economies got caught in some dodgy toxic debts? 

British spirit…..we’ll cope?

Mustn’t grumble…could be worse…….sounds like the start of a song 

Maybe it is the legacy of the Druids….in times of strife we need sacrificial lambs to help us in our time of need.  

Who shall we sacrifice? Why not Public Services? Government are not content with year on year efficiencies which has seen jobs cut, services cut, privatisation & terms & conditions eroded they want more and it is public sector workers & their families who must pay.  

So back to my original point, “are the workers revolting?”

There are approximately 6 million workers working in public services all going to have a vote next year and whoever gets in has got their services, jobs in their sights……. 

The message from politicians is that the best way out of this mess is to cut, cut, cut and cut again…haven’t we been here before? 

So we cut services, we cut jobs, but how does that help public services?

Public Sector workers are not known for taking direct action …but then again neither were those workers who have been taking direct action in the last 9 months. It would be a foolish politician that ignored the signs that the public are revolting and will continue to do so if they are given no hope and no alternative.

Don’t bury your head in the sand!

“It ain’t nothing to do with me!”

Wrong answer.

The Future Shape Cabinet committee meet on 26 October will sign off the final piece of the future shape timetable. It is important that staff understand what it will mean to the way they will be working in the future.  

Important message: social services

social workers in adults & children services this is going to affect you just as much as those staff working in services identified as bundles or stand alone services. The access & assessment group are due to report in October and it is clear their recommendations are going to impact on the way you work.

“One public sector approach”

The ‘one Barnet public sector’ has many advantages if it includes:

  • Improves democratic accountability, participation and transparency of all the public bodies providing services in Barnet.
  • Increases citizen involvement in designing services and actively participating in governance.
  • Provides more integrated services, particularly improving access and assessment.
  • Makes better use of public assets and encourages multi-use of sites and facilities.
  • Examines the scope for shared or joint public-public services.
  • Reduces the number of quangos and companies/trusts.


The July 2009 trade union report to Cabinet recommended that an effective consolidation process should consist of:

  • Staff and trade union participation in the consolidation process with a jointly agreed corporate protocol setting out good practice procedures and reporting mechanisms.
  • A commitment to continuing in-house provision of services on value for money and public interest terms.
  • A commitment to transparency and disclosure so that staff and trade unions have confidence that the consolidation process is genuine.
  • Jointly agreed corporate best practice templates to ensure improvement strategies are fully addressed, options appraisal and business cases
  • A commitment to TUPE Plus and secondment employment options and no compulsory redundancies.

The trade unions want to be engaged in a consolidation process which:

  • Examines new ways in which services can be delivered.
  • Assesses the effectiveness of current service improvement plans and how they may be improved.
  • Draws up plans and proposals for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of council services.
  • Explores the boundaries and responsibilities between the Council and other public agencies in Barnet and how these might or should change.
  • Develops a better understanding of the nature and level of needs and demands for services in Barnet and the strategic functions carried out by the Council.
  • Adopts a user-centred approach to service delivery and performance criteria.
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