Tales from Waltham Forest UNISON

What is your name?
Dave Knight

What UNISON branch?
Waltham Forest

What is your branch officer position?
Branch Secretary

Have any of your services been privatised? Please explain?
A number of our services have been privatized. Our refuse collection has gone out to a company called Verdant, our street cleaning and grounds maintenance to Kier Street Services, our street lighting to May, Gurney, Cartledge, our highways to Rineys. Our education authority function is with VT and our Careers Service is with VT Enterprise. Our housing is with Ascham Homes (an ALMO). We have Outlook running some adult residential unit and a lot of our Home Care is now out with organizations like Leonard Cheshire (the firm featured on the Panorama programme). Our building Consultancy has gone out to NPS.

There are a whole host of procurements for individual projects as well. We have Trust schools. We have Academy schools. And it feels to me that many of our councillors – we are a hung Council led by a Lib-Lab coalition. Locally we continue to argue against every privatisation. Our observation is that privatization does not work, it serves merely to deflect our taxes that should go directly into supporting public services, into private pockets. It is tempting for businesses and councillors to enter into corrupt arrangements and it is amazing how naïve the politicians are in believing that these entrepreneurs have our communities at heart. As far as I can see all they want is our money.

We have fought with some success at times. Three elderly persons homes and our Revenues and Benefits teams have been brought back in house after being outsourced. We fight by being part of our trade council, organizing demos and lobbying politicians. We also ensure that failings get publicized in the local rag.

Do you know if there are any plans to share services with other public sector organisations in your borough?
We believe that there are some plans to consider shared services. Our in house cleaning team and our call centre are two services where we think management might be planning something.

Do you have any privatisation proposals in your borough?
Privatisation Proposals are pretty common. We have one that has just started which is to offer up our Children with Disabilities Respite unit for a tendering exercise

What do you think will be the big challenges for public Services over the next four years?
Over the next four years I think we will have massive challenges. If the Tories win the next election I am pretty sure they will come after our jobs, our pay and our pensions. They may even move towards scrapping local authorities. And I don’t see the Labour agenda being much different. What has to change, if we are to stand a chance, is the attitude of our trade unions. We need to transform into campaigning unions willing to support members who want to fight back.

What is your message to Barnet UNISON members?
So we would send a message of solidarity to our colleagues in Barnet that basically says “Keep fighting – Justice must win out in the end for public sector services”.