Passenger Escorts speak out about their fears

On Monday 30th November, 2020 at the Children, Education & Safeguarding Committee agreed to a savings proposal that moved the line management of Passenger Escorts from Barnet Council to the latest outsourcing organisation Barnet Education Learning and Skills (BELS).

This decision had not been discussed with the workforce. This service consists of a driver and a passenger escort. This proposal seeks to move from single line management of both staff to two line managers with the added complexity that the line manager for passenger escorts is not a Barnet Council employee.

Both UNISON and GMB objected to this decision and as you will see so did the workforce.

Over 90% of coach escorts signed the following statement

“Dear Mr Hooton

I have been told that as from 1 January 2021 I will no longer be managed by an employee of Barnet Council.

I was never asked for my opinion about this proposal.

I have worked through COVID and I continue to do my best for the children under very stressful circumstances because I love my job.

I don’t do this for the money.

I want to put on record that I want to be managed by a Barnet Council employee.

Signed”

Barnet UNISON and GMB email to Barnet Council Chief Executive

Hi John

Mary and I are writing to you on behalf of all coach escorts about the decision to move their line management from Street Scene to Barnet Education and Learning Service (BELS).

Last week we both attended five meetings with our members (coach escorts) working for Passenger Transport and the BELS over the decision to transfer the line management of the coach escorts from Street Scene to BELS.

Unfortunately what may have seemed like a decision that would have no impact on the staff we have to report that this is not the case. If we had been consulted about this proposal we would have advised you of the likely impact such news would have on this workforce.

This is a low paid female workforce.

They are a frontline workforce that have been working out in the COVID workplace with all the stress that brings regardless of what a Risk Assessment may state about being COVID secure.

It is to their credit that they like many low paid staff get on with the job. If you and members of your senior management team have ever spend time with this workforce, which we have both done over the years, you will have been left in no doubt that their commitment lies with the children they accompany on behalf of Barnet Council.

Both Mary and I have been involved with this service over many years and in that time staff have seen changes to line management of the service.

UNISON and GMB have been regularly meeting with the operational management of this service for over five years and in that time we have seen things improve for drivers and coach escorts.

Almost two weeks ago the trade unions were contacted to attend a meeting where we were told that the line management was being handed to BELS.

The reaction from both trade unions and later the membership, was why?

Why is a two person team being split and handed over to another employer?

It is really important to understand that many of the staff have been around for a long time and have witnessed groups of Council workers first being split from their original service only to find out later they are being outsourced.

Barnet Council like it or not has a reputation for outsourcing services to a variety of different employers. These different employers offer new staff inferior Terms and Conditions with no access to LGPS.

We have a recent example of BELS (formerly Mott MacDonald), where the workforce were unaware of what was going on behind the scenes with Mott MacDonald and Barnet Council were suddenly plunged into uncertainty and stress at the announcement that Mott MacDonald wanted to terminate the contract.

As you know the majority of staff wanted to return to Barnet Council. Many of our members across our respective trade unions commented how unfair it was that workers were carrying out the same role but one had access to the LGPS and the others did not. This inequality was exacerbated was made worse by the fact that senior managers with joint appointment contacts, which provides entitlement to LGPS, were promoting the BELS model and against the in-house model.

It is within this backdrop of this recent decision and the news of this transfer of line management that members across PTS are speculating this is the first stage of an outsourcing agenda.

In the five meetings which took place last week staff they have been told the reason for the decision to change the line management is to enable the service to become more streamlined and to improve communication. Both Mary and I were unaware there were any issues. It would have been helpful to have been informed of these concerns.

In terms of having a more streamlined it would make more sense to bring the SEND service back in-house to Family Services, in that way we would have one organisation responsible for delivering this service just as it is in many local authorities across the UK.

This is why I have coach escorts asking if this is the first step before a TUPE transfer to BELS and now our drivers are also feeling threatened that they could be TUPEd to an external contractor.

It is important to add that in the meetings when it was raised senior management for LBB and BELS have all stated this decision is not about outsourcing.

However due our Councils recent history of outsourcing many fear this decision is an indication there is going to be a return to outsourcing in response to Government’s announcements about local government pay freezes.

Over the last ten years low paid staff have been made to pay for Austerity and it should be no surprise to you and that of your senior management team that they fear that it is coming back for them.

Our members have repeatedly asked us what they can do. They don’t want to be transferred.

UNISON and GMB agreed that we would write to you and the senior management team responsible for this decision.

Please find attached a statement signed by almost every coach escort. The engagement of this workforce on this matter should provide an indication of the strength of feeling about this transfer and their wish to line managed by a Council employee.

Stay safe.

Best wishes

John Burgess

Branch Secretary.

Barnet UNISON

Barnet UNISON: Who are the Clinically Vulnerable?

Press release: Clinically extremely vulnerable receive updated guidance in line with new national restrictions

Further precautions advised on top of the tougher national measures being introduced, as cases continue to rise.

Those with the following conditions fall into the clinically extremely vulnerable group:

  • solid organ transplant recipients
  • people with specific cancers:
    • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
    • people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
    • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    • people having other targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
  • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • people with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • people with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell)
  • people on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection adults with Down’s syndrome
  • adults on dialysis or with chronic kidney disease (Stage 5)
  • women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
  • other people who have also been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, based on clinical judgement and an assessment of their needs. GPs and hospital clinicians have been provided with guidance to support these decision

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/clinically-extremely-vulnerable-receive-updated-guidance-in-line-with-new-national-restrictions

 

Latest update added to clinical extremely vulnerable:

 

We now have evidence to suggest that those with chronic kidney disease (stage 5) and those undergoing dialysis, as well as adults with Down’s Syndrome, are at higher risk from COVID-19 than the general population and therefore the Chief Medical Officer has advised they follow the new guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable. We have asked the NHS to begin the process of identifying and contacting all those affected, providing them with the latest advice”.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/clinically-extremely-vulnerable-receive-updated-guidance-in-line-with-new-national-restrictions

Breaking News: Covid Plus Joint Trade Union proposals

Dear Barnet UNISON members

The following Joint Trade Union proposals were sent to Barnet Council on Wednesday 4 November 2020.

We will update members as soon as we have a response.

UNISON National issue this statement on schools which you can view here

 

Joint Trade Union statement

COVID Plus. Front line workers

For the purposes of this proposal frontline means workers who cannot work from home.

  1. All staff who are deemed clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable to stay at home for lockdown on full pay.
  2. All frontline staff to receive a monthly COVID payment for the duration of the Pandemic in recognition of the important role they playing in the provision of frontline services and the simple fact frontline workers can’t work from home and have to bear the costs of travel and navigate the risks of travel on public transport.
  3. All frontline workers to have weekly COVID tests.
  4. All frontline workers to receive full pay if they have to isolate or are unable to work due to COVID.
  5. All frontline workers to have unlimited access to counselling services during this pandemic in recognition of the mental stress working with COVID brings to this workforce.
  6. If staff have to work from home due to fact their children are sent home from their school due to COVID then they should remain on full pay.
  7. All COVID related absences whilst recorded should not be used for sickness absence recording.
  8. Any staff having to make emergency visits abroad to visit a dying relative or attend a funeral should receive full pay during the quarantine period.

COVID Plus for home workers.

  1. All staff who are deemed clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable to stay at home for lockdown on full pay.
  2. All workers to have unlimited access to counselling services during this pandemic in recognition of the mental stress working with COVID brings to this workforce.

 

  1. If staff have to work from home due to fact their children are sent home from their school due to COVID then they should remain on full pay and it should be recognised that the worker has a reduced capacity to carry out their work duties.
  2. All COVID related absences whilst recorded should not be used for sickness absence recording.
  3. Any staff having to make emergency visits abroad to visit a dying relative or attend a funeral should receive full pay during the quarantine period.
  4. To recognise the damaging effect working from home has on both physical activity levels and mental health. Also to recognise that the normal practice of leaving home to travel to and from work also of travelling between venues for meetings are now lost to the home worker leading to a more compressed working routine with little opportunity to leave the home. Therefore give a one hour paid daily break to home working staff in addition to their lunch break to enable them to have down time from their computer screens and so that they can physically leave their home for a walk or partake in some form of exercise.
  5. Protocol for structuring virtual meetings to enable time away from the screen e.g. starting meetings at quarter past the hour implying that there should be a 15min break before the meeting starts.
  6. Supervision to incorporate questions relating to mental health wellbeing and physical health as well as checking on the home set up (it should not be assumed home set up is constantly the same).
  7. For a designated person to randomly contact 10 workers per week to find out from them their experience with respect to supervision, welfare checks etc.
  8. Staff with children at home should be given a designated amount of time to dedicate to their child’s learning and leisure.
  9. Key workers working from home who have a clinically or extremely clinically vulnerable child should be allowed to continue working from home if schools are closed but only open to key worker’s children.

Stay safe

Best wishes

John Burgess

Branch Secretary

Barnet UNISON.

Government attacking on our Pension and Redundancy Payments

The Westminster Government has pushed through parliament final regulations that will enact the absolute cap of £95,000 on all exit payments in the public sector.

This means that any exit payment made after the implementation date (anticipated to be on, or soon after 26th October) will be affected.

UNISON are campaigning to demonstrate the severe impact the changes would have on various different types of local government workers.

Read National UNISON update 6 October 2020

http://msgfocus.com/files/amf_unison/project_131/LG_60_2020_-_URGENT_update_on_the_95_000_Cap_on_Public_Sector_Exit_Payments.pdf

 

The consultation closes 9 November 2020

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reforming-local-government-exit-pay

 What next?

In order to alert UNISON members to the seriousness of these attacks UNISON have provided 6 hypothetical worked examples below. (N.B. where the examples below talk about being a ‘member’ this means pension membership not UNISON membership).

 

Examples:

Individual 1: is 59 years old. Member for 19 years and is currently paid a salary of £29,000 per annum. She broadly fits the profile of the average member. Her new redundancy package does not contain a cash payment on top, as her pension strain is larger than the combined SRP and DSP. Member benefits are not affected by the £95,000 cap but are reduced under proposed reforms as SRP and DSP are no longer paid in excess to pension strain. Under the proposed reforms, benefits on redundancy are reduced by around 37%.

  • Individual 2: is 55 years old and has been a member for 25 years. He is paid a salary of £80,000 per annum. His relatively young age means that he receives a high pension strain. Benefits are reduced under proposed reforms as SRP and DSP are no longer paid in excess to pension strain and pension stain is capped at £95,000. His new redundancy benefits are £95,000, as his pension strain is already over £95,000. Under the proposed reforms, benefits on redundancy are reduced by around 61%.
  • Individual 3: is 61 years old. He has been a member for 31 years and is currently paid a salary of £41,000 per annum. Member is entitled to a cash payment as the DSP the member would have been entitled to is higher than pension strain (net of SRP). Member benefits are not affected by the £95,000 cap but are reduced under proposed reforms as full SRP and DSP are no longer paid in excess to pension strain. His redundancy benefits are reduced by 38%.
  • Individual 4: is 65 years old. She has been a member 7 years and is currently paid a salary of £20,000 per annum. Member is entitled to a cash top up as pension strain is less than SRP, and DSP the member would have been entitled to is greater than strain (net of SRP). Member benefits are not affected by the £95,000 cap but are reduced under proposed reforms as full SRP and DSP are no longer paid in excess to pension strain. Under the proposed reforms, benefits on redundancy are reduced by around 25%.
  • Individual 5: is 60 years old. She has been a member for 4 years and is currently paid a salary of £35,000 per annum. Her new redundancy package does not contain a cash payment element as her pension strain is larger than the combined SRP and DSP. Member benefits are not affected by the £95,000 cap but are reduced under proposed reforms as full SRP and DSP are no longer paid in excess to pension strain. Under the proposed reforms, benefits on redundancy are reduced by around 29%.
  • Individual 6: is 67 years old and has been a member 23 years. She is currently paid a salary of £34,000 per annum. Her age and service history mean that there is no pension strain. The member is not affected by the £95,000 cap. Her redundancy package will be unchanged and will consist entirely of the cash payment which is equal to her original SRP plus DSP.

What can you do?

If you have any questions and concerns please email contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

Passenger Transport COVID Update 1.  

Thursday 24 September 2020.

Barnet UNISON has been contacted by coach escorts and drivers about COVID safety concerns since the service began at the beginning of September.

The issues are

  1. Overcrowded minibuses which have 10 or more pupils on a bus.
  2. Overcrowded minicabs
  3. COVID Cleansing of private contract vehicles

Barnet UNISON made the point that Government Guidance was a minimum standard and that we want a higher standard of protection for our members especially in light of the fact that a significant number of this workforce had been self-isolating.

Barnet Council have agreed to look at the numbers on the vehicles and the cleansing regime for the private contractor vehicles.

We want to assure all of our members working in Passenger Transport that your safety and welfare are central to what we do.

If you have any concerns please contact the branch on 0208 359 2088 or email contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

Barnet Bin workers dispute update 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We conducted an internal strike ballot on the management proposal to enforce a change to the contracts of Bin workers.

We had a 99% turnout and a 98% vote to reject the proposal.

This was shared with management.

Management have been told that our members feel they are being bullied by this proposal. 

They know first hand about the growing anger amongst the workforce in response to this proposal, yet they continue to pursue it.

This vote is a warning to Barnet Council that the mood within the workforce is for strike action if management seek to force the contract change through sack and re-engage.

For a period between 2009 and 2016 Barnet UNISON had strikes every year.

We know how to organise strikes and we are ready to mobilise if on Monday 20 September management persist with this aggressive act.

Messages of support for Barnet Bin Workers can be sent to contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

Look out for our next update on Monday

Solidarity

 

Barnet UNISON.

Breaking News: Barnet Bin workers Trade Dispute meeting with Barnet Council Update 1

Dear Member

What is happening?

At 10 am on Monday 21 September 2020, Barnet UNISON and GMB are in an emergency meeting to discuss the management proposal to impose a contractual change for all bin workers.

Barnet UNISON have for the last six months tried to convince senior Street Scene management that there is no need to adopt aggressive tactics towards bin workers who have worked through constant changes to the bin service, a depot that has been a building site for the past year and lastly COVID with all the additional stresses that brings.

We have made the point that other Council workers who work Bank Holidays and weekends do so without imposing any contractual changes.

We want our members to be treated the same as any other Council workers.

What is our proposal?

Barnet UNISON proposal is that we would sign a Bin workers local agreement for working Bank Holidays at the same rates of Pay as other Council workers with the understanding that there are no changes to the contracts.

What happens if the Council does not agree to UNISONs proposal?

If we do not reach an agreement at this meeting which we can recommend to our members then we will register a formal dispute with the Council.

What does that mean?

Immediately after the meeting Barnet UNISON will submit a report to London Region UNISON to begin the legal process of organising a strike ballot.

Barnet UNISON will be organising a mixture of online meetings and social distanced meetings down the depot to explain the process to all of our members.

Keep a look out for our next text and email messages.

Barnet UNISON

 

Urgent TUPE advice for Cambridge Education members

Dear Member

It has come to my attention that due to the short timescale imposed on the TUPE to the new company the usual checking of personal data that always takes place when staff transfer under TUPE is not happening.

What should happen?

In TUPE consultation the current employer will send a copy of the data they are going to send to the new employer to the employee in order that the employee can confirm it is accurate.

What is happening in this TUPE?

I have been advised that staff are not being sent a copy of their personal data to check. They are being advised via an email to check their personal data themselves.

What is UNISON’s advice?

As a UNISON member you are entitled to support and advice.

In this case the advice from UNISON is very clear.

Please check that your personal data which is currently being held by Cambridge Education is accurate.

At some point in the future you may need copies of your personal data which is why it is important that you check your personal data is accurate.

UNISON has had too many experiences of dealing with the consequences of inaccurate personal data especially where there have been multiple employers.

What can you do?

You can request to have all of your personal data sent to you by Cambridge Education via a secure email.

If you have any questions please email contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

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