Parking…..you couldn’t make it up!

Parking…..you couldn’t make it up!

It has been a roller coaster of a week for our members working in parking specifically those working in the back office.

On Tuesday, I attended TUPE consultation with NSL and RR Donnelly (a sub contractor). At the meeting UNISON was informed that on 1 May (date of transfer) back office staff would be requested to attend a meeting at Solar House in Finchley (new site for the enforcement team). The staff would be given ‘at risk of redundancy’ letters and consultation would begin. However NSL announced that consultation would be for two weeks instead of 30 days. This was a significant change from what UNISON and our members had obviously been told. I made the point that two weeks pay was a significant loss especially for staff facing redundancy especially in the current economic climate. Both NSL and the Council were insistent that it was two weeks.

On the same day two hours later a member of staff produced an email which has previously sent out to all staff which stated

 “One of the questions clarifies that you will now be paid for the whole of May at the end of May as you are salaried rather than hourly paid staff.”

I attended a meeting later that day with members where it was confirmed that staff would now be paid for the month of May as previously agreed.

Meet the Bidders for NSCSO – LOCATION, LOCATION, and LOCATION!

BBBREAKING NEWS!

The big issue coming out of this Briefing is the location issue. UNISON members are already fully aware that the two Bidders (EC Harris and Capita Symonds) for the DRS contract  also in Dialogue Two made a public statement that they will be delivering the services within the borough of Barnet for the life of the10 year contract and beyond.

The evidence is for all Barnet staff to read here on the intranet

Click here to view the EC Harris and Capita Symonds presentations from the Meet the Bidder Days

However at the NSCSO ‘Meet the Bidder briefing’ the response from Capita is that they are unable to answer this question at this stage, the reason being they are about to enter Dialogue Two. Furthermore they are not the ‘preferred bidder’ so until that point (approx 5 month time) they will be unable to answer this question.

I left the briefing with the following questions ringing in my ear “why are they refusing to answer this question, if they can do it for DRS why can they not do the same for NSCSO?”

I wonder what BT have to say this Friday?

Copthall School is in formal consultation for Academy status

Copthall School is in formal consultation for academy status with a transfer date of 1st September 2012; if this academy conversion goes ahead this will make 14 Barnet Academy Schools, out of Barnet’s 118 Schools.  The difference with Copthall is that they are investigating using the Cooperative Trust model.   The school will benefit by an estimated £140,000 that conversion would bring. (  but considerably down on the extra funding that earlier conversions received)


The argument against this proposal is of course that schools converting to academy status may gain
financially for themselves but at the cost of the schools remaining within the local authority, because the central education fund is cut as a consequence – such a loss, multiplied several times over, would severely affect Barnet council being able to carry out its role as an education authority.  Ironically one of the arguments put forward for this strategy is that the local education authority has reduced Copthall School funding some 7% last year, thus making conversion more attractive, but each conversion will negatively impact on the local authority schools that remain even more.

Staff at the School are obviously very concerned about what the future holds for them and how this will impact on pay, conditions and job security. UNISON will need to be active, and pro-active, along with other unions in the school. Reps and good communications are the key factor in allowing sharing of knowledge/expertise.

If the main reason for adopting a cooperative school model was the adoption of cooperative principles this could have been done without becoming an academy and without the funding implications. One fear is that the cooperative school approach of working in clusters could extend academies into the Barnet primary sector.

The cooperative model may on the surface look attractive in terms of ethos and values but it is not a long term solution to the problem of cuts in funding. That said UNISON has signed a framework agreement with the co-op trust putting is in a slightly better position than in a number of other Academy Schools.

http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/co-opschoolsnatag.pdf

NUT Strike Action in London – 28 March and advice for UNISON members and what’s going on with our pension talks.

The NUT is calling a one day strike and demonstration in London on 28 March as the next step in the pension’s campaign.

The strike action on March 28th is for NUT members in the following areas:

Barking & Dagenham, Barnet, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, East London, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Southwark, Sutton, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth and Westminster.

A central London demonstration on will be held on the 28 March. Assemble at 11am in Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY and a march to Westminster.

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

“The Government is well aware that teachers do not accept the changes that they propose to make to our pensions. The vast majority of teaching unions have not signed up to the latest pension proposals which still mean that teachers will have to pay much more, work much longer and get much less in retirement.”

UNISON Advice

UNISON respects the rights of other trade unions to take industrial action. Members in schools and colleges have not been balloted and therefore they are advised to continue with their normal duties and responsibilities on the 28th March.  UNISON members should not take on any additional responsibilities being given to them directly as a result of the teachers’ industrial action.

School support staff should not be expected to provide cover for or take classes, where this would normally be done by teachers who are on strike.  In particular, Higher Level Teaching Assistants or cover supervisors should only be taking classes or providing cover where they are contracted to do so, it is timetabled or part of their normal duties. Staff should not be moved from the duties they would normally have carried out in order to cover classes and frustrate the industrial action of colleagues. Members who are under pressure to cover should contact their UNISON rep, branch or region for further advice and support.

Members are reminded that due to industrial relations legislation only those employees who have been involved in a legal ballot are allowed to take industrial action.  However, members are encouraged to show support for their striking colleagues by attending meetings/rallies outside working hours. 

Official picket lines

Refusal to cross an official picket line could render members of staff liable to disciplinary action including deduction of salary.  The exception to this is where there are genuine grounds to believe that crossing the picket line could put the person concerned at risk of injury.  Members are advised that when crossing a picket line they should assure official pickets that they will not undertake any work normally done by those on strike.  NUT colleagues are unlikely to expect UNISON members to do anything unlawful.

Health and safety

Members should not be pressured to provide cover on health and safety grounds to avoid closure of a workplace.

What’s going on with our Pension – LGPS Survey

The UNISON team involved in negotiating over the ‘new’ Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) from 2014 has been considering whether to propose a ‘low cost option’ as part of the new scheme. This would enable members to opt for 50% contributions – and 50% benefits – for future service. The option would probably apply for up to a maximum of three years, during periods of financial hardship or reduced pay and might also help those members not in the scheme to join for a short period before entering the full scheme. At the end of that period, members could either opt out or transfer to the main LGPS. We also want to encourage as many non-LGPS members as possible to join.

It would really help us to know whether you might use this option – or think it’s a good idea in principle – whether you are already an LGPS member or not.

Please complete the short survey and let us have your views. To start the survey, click here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LGPSLowCostOption

2008 and they have learnt nothing – Goldman Sachs

If there is one news story I would ask every UNISON to read then it is the story that broke earlier this week about a senior figure working for Goldman Sachs who had his resignation letter published in the New York Times. It is of massive interest is the connection of Goldman Sachs with a number of catastrophic financial failures including the Greek Debt crisis? At a time when we are told that we need to accept the deficit and accept less money, less services, more misery, it appears that the whole financial system has learnt nothing. Please find a number of high profile articles of the subject of Goldman Sachs and their connection with the Greek Debt Crisis.

1. TIME Magazine “ 7 Ways of Seeing Goldman Sachs”

The article in the TIME magazine see link below refers to another article by James Shaft of Reuters argues along similar lines, saying that financial markets don’t operate properly without strict regulation, and that pining for the days when banks took the long view misrepresents the past. It wasn’t because investment banks weren’t publicly traded or that bankers of 40 years ago had more scruples, he argues, but that heavy regulation prevented the kind of excesses that investment banks engage in now.

http://business.time.com/2012/03/16/is-goldman-sachs-guilty-of-nothing-more-than-hardnosed-capitalism/

2. “Goldman Sachs shares slump”

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-2115794/Goldman-Sachs-shares-slump-amid-row-Greg-Smith-resignation.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

3. “Goldman Secret Greece Loan Shows Two Sinners as Client Unravels”

According to the article below Goldman Sachs appears to have used a clever financial instrument to disguise the Greek Governments growing debt burden

“As first reported in 2003, Goldman Sachs used a fictitious, historical exchange rate in the swaps to make about 2 percent of Greece’s debt disappear from its national accounts. To repay the 2.8 billion euros it borrowed from the bank, Greece entered into a separate swap contract tied to interest-rate swings.”

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-03-05/goldman-secret-greece-loan-shows-two-sinners-as-client-unravels

4. “Toxic bank Goldman”

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/toxic-bank-goldman-sachs-web-763345

5. Goldman Sachs involved in the Greek debt crisis watch this YouTube clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07-hA9DW-Po

Questions:

“In light of this story breaking what should the Regulators do about Goldman Sachs?”

“Should those people who lost out as a result of Goldman Sachs advice now consider putting in a claim for losses from Goldman Sachs?”

Parking negotiations with NSL Part Two

Last week I attended a meeting with NSL, Barnet Council and RR Donnelly.

I want to deal with RR Donnelly first as none of our staff knew who they were. To do that I need to go back to the ‘Measures letter’ sent by NSL. The Measures letter identified a number of issues that would impact on our members currently providing parking services for Barnet Council.

One measure concerned the subcontracting of some of the back office services to a company called Parseq, whom we were told were based in Doncaster. Then suddenly a little over a few weeks ago we were told that things had changed and another company called RR Donnelly based in Bristol would now be taking over these services. UNISON has insisted that RR Donnelly turn up to the Tri-Partite meetings as they were going to be taking on 7 staff. At our meeting last week RR Donnelly explained that they were based in Brighton not Bristol.

We asked that RR Donnelly meet up with our members to talk to them about the TUPE transfer to their company. It was in these discussions that I discovered that RR Donnelly had not yet sought agreement from our Pension Fund Committee to secure admitted body status. They assured us that they had managed to secure this on other contracts. 1:1 meetings for staff are being arranged for staff with RR Donnelly and NSL, all UNISON members to contact the UNISON branch in order to secure representation.

NSL & 1:1 meetings.

Firstly for those members who have not yet had a 1:1 meeting, you don’t have to meet with NSL if you don’t want to. They are offering the meetings for those staff who want them. If you do decide to meet them please contact the branch to arrange representation.

No Bradford Factor!

 

At the last meeting with NSL they confirmed that they have decided not to use the Bradford Factor on the Barnet contract

 

Personal Data

I have been assured by HR that all staff understand what is and is not being handed over to NSL. If you are still unsure please contact your local rep. Remember, do not sign off anything until you have seen your file and have checked it is accurate.

 

NSL or LBB terms & Conditions

 

In discussions it has now been made clear that any staff that are at risk of redundancy will be offered redeployment on other NSL contracts. However, they will not transfer on their Council Terms & Conditions and that includes their Pension.

 

If someone is promoted on the Barnet contract, they will transfer to NSL Terms & Conditions, but they will maintain their membership in the Council Pension scheme.

 

New starters will be on NSL Terms & Conditions.

 

 

 

 

UNISON respond to Call Centre privatisation plan

Email and UNISON report (click here) sent to Cabinet Resources Committee and all other councillors

Dear members of Cabinet Resources Committee  

 

The New Support and Customer Services Organisation: Business Case Update and Shortlist for Dialogue 2 was uploaded onto the Councils website last Tuesday. UNISON have been consulting their members  on the content of the report.

 

I hope that you will have the opportunity to read and digest our response.

 

I want to draw you attention to section 1 of our report, which highlights what is by far the biggest risk to date the Council are taking.

 

1. The £600m Revenues and Benefits risk

The Council’s Revenue and Benefits Serviceadministers £230m benefits each year and collects £250m council tax and over £100m business rates. This service has a major role in many people’s lives. It also has a vital role in providing resources to ensure the sustainability of Council services. Thus service continuity is essential.

 

Three significant risks are not addressed in the Business Case Update:

·         The switchover to Universal Credit and the potential impact on those in receipt of benefit in Barnet has been raised as a major change/risk following its initial announcement. However, outsourcing the service immediately before a radical new benefit system comes into effect will mean the contract will be subject to large-scale variations. Changes to contracts provide contractors with opportunities to increase costs. In this situation they could be considerable. Once the business expertise is lost to the contractors, Barnet Council will have little understanding to counter contractor’s claims. 

 

·         The impact of potential delays in the government’s Universal Credit timetable (April and October 2013) due to the lack of, or operational problems, in new information technology systems.

 

·         Barnet Council’s planned changes in service delivery and working practices (through a restructure) in Revenues and Benefits. Since the SAP CRM system was procured several years ago, followed by the proposals to fragment complex business processes, there has been a failure to recognise that a single call centre model does not work. It is interesting to note that the Business Case refers to a PI target for the call centre of 80% of calls being handled at the first point of contact compared to current Revenue and Benefits performance of 100% of calls being handled at the first point of contact.

The history of new Information technology systems is littered with failed timetables, cost overruns and poor service delivery, including outsourced revenue and benefits contracts (Whitfield, 2007). The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee recently concluded:

 

“…the introduction of Universal Credit is dependent upon the successful implementation of new IT, and this requires effective resourcing of the IT back office support services in the Department. Furthermore, the Department is assuming running costs reductions from an optimistic expectation that most customers will communicate online with the Department. Both of these areas are high risk, and any delays are likely to impact on planned cost reductions. There are insufficient contingencies in place and services could be adversely affected if things do not go to plan. Too often this Committee has highlighted examples in other government departments where IT systems or projects have gone off track and emerging problems have gone unchallenged by staff (PAC, 2011).

 

Revenue and Benefits staff believe that the proposed restructuring of the service, the adoption of a call centre model and the planned adoption of generic job descriptions could result in a significant reduction in the quality of service.

 

The substantial risks for revenue and benefits are not included in the Risk Assessment Issues in Business Case Update. This should be rectified as a matter of urgency. The Council appears to be complacent, relying on the contractor to solve these problems and reduce risk:“Their scale and expertise also enables them to change and negotiate changes to the technological platform for the service with far greater ease than the council could manage alone”(London Borough of Barnet 2012, page 3).

 

Best wishes

John Burgess

Branch Secretary.

Barnet UNISON

0208 359 2088

www.barnetunison.me.uk

Barnet UNISON “Watch it & Share it”

Barnet UNISON Facebook

Barnet UNISON Twitter

Defend Our Pensions

 

 

 

Ten reasons why City of Edinburgh Councillors should oppose privatisation (and they did)

Barnet UNISON have invited Edinburgh UNISON down to speak at our AGM on Thursday 1 March.

Edinburgh Council also have been through massively expensive Competitive Dialogue using expensive consultants and had even named the contractor to take on the 2,000 council workers, when at the eleventh hour, councillors across the political divide woke up and smelt the coffee and reversed the decision. Read the article here

Below are Ten reasons why City of Edinburgh Councillors should oppose privatisation (and they did)

1 – Privatisation doesn’t work. From fatal accidents on unsafe railways, and deaths from hospital infections to the soar away bills of energy companies. Private companies put profit before people, cutting corners and selling the tax payer short.

2 – If private companies are so wise with money why do so many go bust? The residents in Southern Cross care homes have had an anxious year praying that the spectacular demise of the profligate care company doesn’t leave them on the streets. Edinburgh’s preferred bidder for environmental services has only just been rescued from £740 million debt by the intervention of a consortium of banks. Privatisation is laden with risk.

 

3 – Once their feet are under the table, private companies drive up costs. Another Edinburgh bidder, BT, just agreed to refund £27 million to the people of Liverpool after a report found they were massively overcharging the local council.

 

4 – Managing commercial contracts is an art that takes skill to master. We don’t have to remind people of the tram fiasco in Edinburgh, but a recent Audit Scotland report indicated the council still lacks the ability to manage large commercial contracts. We need another tram fiasco like a hole in the head!

 

5 – Along with worries for service users, privatisation brings fear to the workforce. Fear of job losses and fear of pay cuts. Two hundred jobs will go if councillors vote for privatisation on Thursday and the pension scheme will close its door on new employees. The beginning of the end for decent pensions in the capital.

 

6 – Not all private companies are the same but two companies who progressed during the Edinburgh bidding process were caught concealing the fact they had been prosecuted and convicted for unsafe practices which led to workplace deaths. The public sector works to higher standards of safety and integrity.

 

7 – Privatisation plans are hidden behind a veil of secrecy. All the key documents for Edinburgh privatisation are locked in a “data room” away from public scrutiny. Even the MORI report on local attitudes to privatisation is secret. Apparently the views of the people might prejudice the position of the council. We need to preserve openness and transparency in local government.

 

8 – Local service providers should be accountable to elected councillors not shareholders. Neither the Liberal Democrats nor the SNP were elected with a mandate for privatisation yet they could tie the council to a private contract for twelve years. It will be the private contract and not newly elected councillors which will determine how services are provided. Why bother voting in the next three elections? Privatisation undermines local democracy.

 

9 – In addition to having no mandate from the electorate, the council in Edinburgh never went to the public to explain their plans. There has been no public consultation. Council services belong to the people. They have a right to have their say. They have a right to be heard.

 

10 – With the exception of a few failed bankers, the council’s money problems were not caused by the people of Edinburgh. They certainly were not caused by the workers. No street sweeper brought the country to its knees by gambling with the nation’s wealth. Why should we pay with the loss of jobs and services?

These are just the top ten reasons to oppose privatisation. There are many more. If Edinburgh goes private council services across Scotland will be at risk. We ask people to join us in a simple message – Scotland wants services based on public need, not private greed

Housing – an apology

Dear UNISON member

I have been alerted to comments attributed to me in a report on inside housing.

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/regulation/council-workers-strike-over-tupe-plans/6520385.article

in particular this statement

“Our view is that if the council want to make savings then they should get rid of the ALMO and get rid of the chief executive and bring it all back under council control.”

In my role as branch secretary I have spoken to the literally hundreds of journalists looking for the trade union response to a particular story. On this occasion the journalist from ‘Inside Housing’ was one of the several calls consecutively I took on a freezing cold picket line outside NLBP on Thursday 9 February.

I can now see how this ‘sound bite’ may have caused upset amongst a number of our members working for Barnet Homes.

I want to make it clear that I have always been 100% behind defending services and frontline jobs and anyone who knows me or has spoken with me would I hope agree.

The report presents only part of what I was saying on the phone. The reason he called was to discuss why housing workers were on strike as our branch had reported that UNISON members in Housing Needs & Resources had been balloted. I had to explain to the journalist that there were no housing workers on strike as we had not felt it right to continue with the call for strike action with such a low turnout in the ballot.

The reporter then asked about why we had balloted and why housing workers were so fearful of transferring to Barnet Homes. The conversation then led to the UNISON report submitted to Cabinet as a response to the Council report recommending that housing staff transfer to Barnet Homes. I explained that our report made it clear that there had been no ‘options appraisal’ or robust ‘business case’ to support this proposal, furthermore our report believed there would be greater savings if the ALMO was brought back in-house.  I added there could of course be savings such as the role of the Chief Executive and a number of senior positions. This factor was recognised in the robust ‘Options Appraisal’ carried out by conservative run Hillingdon Council.

What I said was that I would rather frontline services and posts be saved at the expense of senior management posts. However that was not reported in the article

Unfortunately we are living in difficult times, I along with a number of UNISON reps are supporting more and more members facing redundancy and/ cuts to their terms & conditions.

I have been driven as branch secretary to fight for jobs and services and it is especially important in the current climate times that public services are not seen to be too bureaucratic and top heavy with highly paid officers.

It appears that staff working in Barnet Homes are unaware that that there is a restructure coming as a consequence of the merging of the two services. UNISON has made it clear it will oppose all compulsory redundancies. Housing Needs & Resources workers have been told that there will be a restructure as early as June, only three months after their TUPE transfer to Barnet homes.

In response to our members concerns about redundancy I will be making it clear in discussions with Barnet Council and Barnet Homes that UNISON will be seeking confirmation no staff transferred to Barnet Homes will face compulsory redundancy.

I am not clear if Barnet Homes have consulted with staff about the risk to frontline jobs in Barnet Homes as a result of this merger. If you are a UNISON member in Barnet Homes and you want to know more contact your local rep Anne Denison.

What I do have experience of is dealing with what happened to the former Connaught’s workers and their experiences make nightmare reading and now they face their fourth TUPE transfer since leaving the council.

Finally, I would like to draw members attentions to the comments made by members of the public at the end of the article.

 

UPDATE on UNISON response to Parking being outsourced to NSL

urgent update

Yesterday all the contractors were formally told who had won the contraxct.

The Council is now in what is known as the Alacatel period

When does the Standstill Period commence?

The period kicks in from the date the authority decides to award the contract. Usually this will come towards the end of an often lengthy procurement process where bidders will have been shortlisted and finally whittled down to one, for example through a process called “competitive dialogue”. At that point, when the authority makes its selection, the Alcatel Letter is issued and the standstill period should then commence. At the end of that period the contract is signed.

How long is the Standstill Period?

10 to 15 days from the decision to award, depending on the method by which the Alcatel letter is communicated. This is designed to give unsuccessful bidders an opportunity to challenge the award if they believe there has been a breach of the procurement rules.

Who should be sent an Alcatel letter?

Both the successful and unsuccessful “tenderers” and “candidates” in a procurement.. In other words, not only unsuccessful bidders but also any applicant who submitted a “PQQ” (a completed prequalification questionnaire) should receive one.

Full details here

To view our report click here

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