Breaking News: Official Strike ballot begins for Barnet Council Housing Repairs workers

25 August 2022.

On Thursday 25 August our Council Housing Repairs members are being balloted for strike action after talks broke down yesterday.

Their employer is called Barnet Homes, which is part of The Barnet Group, which is 100% owned by Barnet Council.

The reason for the strike is the refusal of the employer to pay sick pay to a worker who injured himself at work.

The worker is a low paid manual worker. We are not talking big money here.

The principle is an important one. When a worker is injured at work they should be in receipt of sick pay. The fact that we are in the middle of the biggest cost of living crisis in 75 years makes the decision of the employer not to pay is not just wrong but cruel.

Barnet UNISON had conducted an indicative ballot which generated a 100% turnout and a 100% vote for strike if our member is not given sick pay.

In the talks the employer seemed oblivious to the terror the cost-of-living crisis is having on their low paid staff.

We will continue to keep the door open to resolve this dispute, but the ballot has started and is due end 15 September, which means there is still time for the employer to do the right thing.

As “The Barnet Group” are owned by Barnet Council, Barnet UNISON will now escalate to Barnet Council and Barnet Labour Party to try to secure an end to this dispute.

End.

Note to Editors: Contact details: Barnet UNISON on or 020 8359 2088 or email: Helen.Davies@barnetunison.org.uk

Background:

Barnet Responsive Repairs workers referred to UNISON’s Industrial Action Committee

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2022/08/05/barnet-responsive-repairs-workers-referred-to-unisons-industrial-action-committee/

Barnet Council Repairs Operatives 100% turnout and 100% vote for strike action.

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2022/07/21/barnet-council-repairs-operatives-100-turnout-and-100-vote-for-strike-action/

Barnet Council’s Company Refuse to Show Compassion for Injured Worker https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2022/07/13/barnet-councils-company-refuse-to-show-compassion-for-injured-worker/

 

 

 

Barnet Responsive Repairs workers referred to UNISON’s Industrial Action Committee

‘We do physical work, our comrade was injured working for Barnet Homes, we are standing with him against an employer that feels it doesn’t have to pay him – it could’ve happened to any of us’.

(Barnet Repairs worker and UNISON member).

Barnet Homes, a subsidiary of Barnet Council’s Local Authority Trading Company the Barnet Group, is refusing to pay sick pay to a worker injured whilst at work.

The demand from Responsive Repairs workers is simple – pay a colleague who was injured at work for time off to rest and recuperate from his injury.

Barnet UNISON met with the CEO of the Barnet Group, a Local Authority Trading Company which is fully owned by Barnet Council, on Wednesday the 27th of July to try and reach an agreement.

The Barnet Group although seeing the merits of paying a worker who sustained an injury at work while working for the Barnet Group, has refused to do so.

Barnet UNISON’s and the workers we represent response to this stance is simple:

NO ONE who is injured while at work should be left without sick pay from their employer.

Barnet UNISON will now move to requesting a ballot for industrial action from London Region – and will be requesting all out continuous strike action.

Barnet UNISON sincerely hope that this will not be necessary and that Barnet Homes, The Barnet Group and Barnet Council will see sense and pay a worker who was injured while working for them.

End.

Note to Editors: Contact details: Barnet UNISON on or 020 8359 2088 or email: Helen.Davies@barnetunison.org.uk

Background:

Barnet Council Repairs Operatives 100% turnout and 100% vote for strike action.

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2022/07/21/barnet-council-repairs-operatives-100-turnout-and-100-vote-for-strike-action/

Barnet Council’s Company Refuse to Show Compassion for Injured Worker https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2022/07/13/barnet-councils-company-refuse-to-show-compassion-for-injured-worker/

A Victory for common sense as Barnet Outreach workers dispute is resolved.

Last week we sat down with The Barnet Group (TBG) to try to reach a resolution and we can now report that TBG have agreed the following:

‘We have now completed the evaluation of salaries and will increase existing staff pay in line with the newly evaluated jobs – and backdated to 1st July.’

Barnet UNISON delighted to announce that although this group of workers was balloted for strike action, recording a massive 100% vote on an 88% turn out, the Barnet Group has accepted the demands of the workers, so strike action will no longer be necessary.

‘I just want to say a massive thank you to you for assisting us all outreach staff in our fight to get what we deserved our pay rise and it was successful. I also want to say if I wasn’t for me being a union member this could not have been achieved. (I have to say I was thinking about cutting costs and skipping out my membership with the union). But boy I’m so glad I didn’t it has been very worthwhile, beneficial and I am so grateful for all the important and hard work that the union do .’ (Barnet Outreach worker and UNISON member)

‘I cannot thank you enough for the wonderful job you are doing. The strength to challenge the pay inequality was tapped from Barnet Unison, knowing that you are there thick and thin was the strength that push us through. You are the pilot, we are the passenger in the plane, even during the turbulent you refused to give up rather you encouraged us to hold on, thank you so much for the safe landing. I appreciate your determination, your support and love. Where there is injustice there is a threat to justice’ (Barnet Outreach worker and UNISON member)

‘I feel there is now a better sense of job security amongst staff following the strategy our reps used and the discussion we had today. This has given us back the dignity we deserve. Keep up the good work!’ (Barnet Outreach worker and UNISON member).

End.

Note to Editors: Contact details: Barnet UNISON on or 020 8359 2088 or email: Helen.Davies@barnetunison.org.uk

Background:

Out of Touch Barnet for Outreach Barnet Workers!

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2022/07/13/out-of-touch-barnet-for-outreach-barnet-workers/

 

Barnet Outreach workers 88% turnout and a100% vote for strike action.

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2022/07/22/barnet-outreach-workers-88-turnout-and-a100-vote-for-strike-action/

 

Barnet Council Repairs Operatives 100% turnout and 100% vote for strike action.

“We worked through Covid, we were clapped and applauded by everyone for the essential Public Service we give to the Public, our reward? To be treated like this!” (Repairs worker).

“Barnet Councils Local Authority Trading Company, The Barnet Group, won’t even give sick pay to a worker who was injured at work, we shouldn’t have to strike for something so basic, but we will, if they don’t see sense.” (Repairs worker).

Barnet Councils Local Authority Trading Company, The Barnet Group, won’t even give sick pay to a worker who was injured at work, we shouldn’t have to strike for something so basic, but we will, if they don’t see sense.

Barnet UNISON noted the intention of paying sick pay to all workers in repairs by giving them the opportunity to transition to a new contract 1st August. Barnet UNISON this intention had been signaled in talks with the trade unions since last Autumn. A colleague is currently off sick following an accident at work and despite there being light duties he could have done; he was sent home with no sick pay as per his contract.

Barnet UNISON the offer of a loan as a remedy but highlight the difficulty in low paid workers being able to pay back any loans. As we are so close to these colleagues being on the new contract, we were looking for a resolution which would put money into this worker’s account to relieve his difficulty. As a new starter this worker would have had access to sick pay. The treatment he has had does not recognise his dedication to his job, residents, and other colleagues. He worked throughout the pandemic.

Barnet UNISON discussed bringing his contract offer forward.

Barnet UNISON discussed the possibility of making a payment in any other way.

We failed to agree a way forward with Barnet Homes senior management.

Our Trades Dispute: Failure to agree adequate support of an employee during their sickness.

Barnet UNISON carried out their own consultative strike ballot.

Indicative Ballot result

Returned Ballot – 100%

Vote for strike action – 100%

Barnet UNISON has reiterated that we are still open for talks. We have agreed to a meeting on Wednesday 27 July 2022 where we hope commonsense will prevail to avoid strike action. However, because of the outcome of our consultative ballot we will be submitting our Industrial Action request to UNISON London region next week.

End.

Note to Editors: Contact details: Barnet UNISON on or 020 8359 2088 or email: Helen.Davies@barnetunison.org.uk

Background: Barnet Council’s Company Refuse to Show Compassion for Injured Worker https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2022/07/13/barnet-councils-company-refuse-to-show-compassion-for-injured-worker/

Barnet UNISON begins two indicative strike ballots.

Barnet UNISON attended a JNCC meeting with The Barnet Group on Wednesday 7 July 2022.

We submitted a full list of agenda items and made clear that if a resolution was not agreed at the meeting, we would have to register a trade dispute. A number of interventions took place before the meeting in order to try and avoid these disputes, but they were unsuccessful.

As of Thursday 14 July 2022, Barnet UNISON has begun two indicative strike ballots of two sets of workers:

·       Council Housing repairs workers

·       Outreach Barnet workers

If the ballots are in favour of strike action Barnet UNISON will approach UNISON London Region to begin the official strike ballot.

In the meantime, the door remains open for the employer to reach a resolution with Barnet UNISON that our members would accept.

Please see the list of the trade disputes

1. Repairs

We noted the intention of paying sick pay to all workers in repairs by giving them the opportunity to transition to a new contract 1st August. We noted this intention had been signalled in talks with the trade unions since last Autumn. A colleague is currently off sick following an accident at work and in spite of there being light duties he could have done, he was sent home with no sick pay as per his contract. We noted the offer of a loan as a remedy but highlight the difficulty in low paid workers being able to pay back any loans. As we are so close to these colleagues being on the new contract we were looking for a resolution which would put money into this worker’s account to relieve his difficulty. As a new starter this worker would have had access to sick pay. The treatment he has had does not recognise his dedication to his job, residents and other colleagues. He worked throughout the pandemic.

We discussed bringing his contract offer forward. We discussed the possibility of making a payment in any other way. We failed to agree a way forward.

Dispute: failure to agree adequate support an employee during their sickness.

2. Outreach Barnet

We noted discrepancy in pay between new starters and staff who were TUPE transferred across in 2019. New starters are paid significantly higher (around 10% higher) than the TUPE’d staff. We noted that the message this gives longstanding staff is that they are worth less than the new starters and also noted that if all of them resigned from their role then they would have to be hired at the new rate of pay. TBG is undertaking an exercise to re-evaluate the roles of the TUPE’d staff but this work may only be completed by the end of July. At the time of the Emergency JNCC we did not receive a commitment to backdate any such re-evaluation to 1st July (the date the new starters begin).

Dispute: failure to agree to aligning the wages of workers in Outreach Barnet with a backdate to 1st July.

3. COVID payments

We noted LBB has not changed its arrangements around COVID. With the exception of care home staff all other staff in TBG have been told effectively COVID  is a sickness like any other and will be treated as such in relation to sick pay and absence management monitoring. We note TBG is not saying there is currently a significant problem with COVID absence. We note the rise in COVID infections generally and the prevalence of Long COVID which is now recognised as a disability. We were not able to secure a commitment to simply follow LBB policy in this regard.

Dispute: failure to agree to revert back to the sick pay and other associated arrangements with respect of the management of COVID in existence prior to July 1st.

4. Payment for Home Testing

We note the home testing and registering for COVID regime to which residential care workers are subject. We are looking for this to be recognised as work time (much the same way as workers who have to take out a vehicle for work purposes and do their vehicle checks and are paid as work time). We have suggested this would total the equivalent of 2.5hrs per week, per worker. This has not been agreed.

Dispute: failure to agree to recognise and remunerate COVID testing for workers in care homes.

End.

Out of Touch Barnet for Outreach Barnet Workers!

Equal pay for Equal work?  Does that sound reasonable?

Barnet Council’s Local Authority Trading Company, The Barnet Group, doesn’t think so……

New starters with Barnet Outreach carrying out the same role as TUPE transferred workers are now being appointed on considerably higher wages than the TUPE transferred staff. The Barnet Group initially ignored this equality issue and only because these workers joined UNISON have their concerns been taken seriously, but not seriously enough.

These loyal frontline keyworkers who were lauded for their support of the most vulnerable during the COVID Pandemic are being treated as second class Public Servants by The Barnet Group and Barnet Council.

In 2019 Homeless Action in Barnet and Genesis Housing workers who were providing outreach services to vulnerable clients on behalf of Barnet Council were told by their respective employers that they were being TUPE transferred into The Barnet Group, a Local Authority Trading Company fully owned by Barnet Council.

Since then, the Outreach Services have gone from strength to strength and expanded the services they offer. They have won praise and accolades from clients, The Barnet Group and the Council for the amazing work they do with the most vulnerable in our Barnet Community.

With the cost of living crisis and inflation soaring these workers are struggling to be able to afford to come to work. They need a resolution now.

Barnet UNISON’s demand for these TUPE transferred workers is simple:

  • Pay ex-Homeless Action Barnet and Genesis Housing workers who are now employed by The Barnet Group the same salary as new starters doing the same job as them in The Barnet Group.

So far, this reasonable demand has fallen on deaf ears in both The Barnet Group and in Barnet Council – which has meant that these workers have been left with no option other than to register this as ‘a failure to agree’ with The Barnet Group.

Equal pay for Equal work.

Simple really, isn’t it?

Unless you work for The Barnet Group….

“Talk is cheap, if Barnet Homes truly respect and value equality, they do the talk, they should walk the walk. All we are asking for is respect and fairness. It is not too much to ask.” (Barnet Outreach worker)

“How can it be that loyalty is punished in this way? If all of these workers resigned now from their job, a new starter would be on the better pay rates. Is this seriously the right message to put to workers? Are these the “values” Barnet Council chooses to defend? The solution is very easy. Commit to paying these workers what you know you would have to pay any new starter from 1st July.” (Patrick Hunter, Barnet UNISON Barnet Homes Convenor)

 

End.

Note to Editors: Contact details: Helen Davies Barnet UNISON on or 020 8359 2088 or email: contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

Barnet Council’s Company Refuse to Show Compassion for Injured Worker

Injured at work, take paid time off to repair the damage?  Does that sound reasonable?

Barnet Council’s Local Authority Trading Company, The Barnet Group, doesn’t think so……

Council Housing repairs service once directly employed by Barnet Council TUPE transferred into Barnet Homes at its inception then TUPE transferred into Lovells, then TUPE transferred into Connaught, then TUPE transferred into Mears and then TUPE transferred back into Barnet Homes which is part of The Barnet Group, Barnet Council’s Local Authority Trading Company – sound confusing?

Imagine being part of the workforce and the effect of continual ‘new employers’ who attack your Terms and Conditions relentlessly to the point where you no longer have sick pay should you become ill or injure yourself working for the people of Barnet.

Mejdi’s story

Mejdi is one of those TUPE transferred workers from Mears. Like his colleagues he worked throughout the pandemic. He was injured while working for The Barnet Group and was unable to take sufficient time off to rest and recuperate because he couldn’t afford not to be paid. Unable to mask the injury and continue working he was sent home with no pay. If he had started working for The Barnet Group following the transfer from Mears he would be on the new contract which would mean he would get sick pay. He is effectively being punished for being loyal.

The solution offered by Barnet Council’s Local Authority Trading Company, The Barnet Group? Give Mejdi a loan. How will he pay that back?

This is not a story from Dickens – this is what Barnet Council’s Local Authority Trading Company, the Barnet Group, thinks is a reasonable and fair way to treat their workforce who maintain our Council estates in the 21st Century. We believe this demonstrates a lack of respect for Mejdi and his colleagues.

Mejdi’s colleagues know that could be their fate. Mejdi and his colleagues are Barnet UNISON members. They are now considering strike action as they have no other option.

Barnet UNISON’s demand for these workers is:

  • Pay Mejdi and his colleagues who were TUPE transferred into The Barnet Group sick pay.

Simple really, isn’t it?

Unless you work for The Barnet Group….

“Disgusting how he’s being treated when he’s worked through COVID.”

(A Barnet Repairs worker)

“The Barnet Group is being pedantic to the point of cruelty. This is not a big sum of money and most Chief Executives could pay this guy out of his back pocket! Small change to some means being able to survive without the terror of debt and the inability to repay debt. It’s embarrassing to have to take this to the public arena to get a resolution.”

(Helen Davies, Branch Chair Barnet UNISON)

End.

Note to Editors: Contact details: Helen Davies Barnet UNISON on or 020 8359 2088 or email: contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

Background:

 

 

 

 

 

Election Time: “Who has the back of Barnet UNISON members?”

As we approach Council elections, our members are asking if there will be a political change here at Barnet Council and if so, what it would mean for them.

It is now 20 years since Labour handed back power to the Tories in Barnet Council. Back then it was a very different time, and the Tories were not keen on outsourcing. They appeared to enjoy running the services themselves.

Things changed around 2008.

This is when easyCouncil was presented as the future for delivering Council services. This approach was promoted by a succession of consultants who were richly rewarded with lucrative contracts. It would be fair to say Barnet Council was “consultant dependent”, no decisions could be made without first paying a consultant 100’s of thousands of pounds of public money.

“The One Barnet Consultant’s bill hits £6.3 million” http://reasonablenewbarnet.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-one-barnet-consultants-bill-hits-63.html

Easycouncil became One Barnet, which enabled the mass outsourcing sausage machine to churn out report after report, all extolling the virtues of outsourcing and undermining the hard work of the in-house staff.

Fast forward 14 years and there appears to be growing anger towards the Government over the alleged breaches of Covid rules at its heart. There is even speculation that previously safe Tory Councils could be at risk.

If there was political change in Barnet would it be a Labour or Lib- Labour Coalition?

And if so what would that mean for our outsourced members all of whom are desperate to return back under direct management of Barnet Council?

What will a change in political leadership mean for our Barnet UNISON members working for NSL the Parking Services contractor?

What will a change in political leadership mean for our Barnet UNISON members working for Capita and the two contracts?

What will a change in political leadership mean for our Barnet UNISON members working for the Catering Contractor ISS? 

What will a change in political leadership mean for our Barnet UNISON members working for Barnet Education Learning Skills (BELS)?

What will a change in political leadership mean for our Barnet UNISON members working for Housing workers working for Barnet Homes? 

What will a change in political leadership mean for our Barnet UNISON members working for 600 care workers working for Your Choice Barnet?

What will a change in political leadership mean for our Barnet UNISON members working for the cleaning contractor Norse? 

What will a change in political leadership mean for our Barnet UNISON members working for the security contractor Blue Nine? 

All the above services used to be provided by Barnet Council and many of the outsourced services are frontline services run by key workers clapped as heroes during the pandemic.

UNISON policy is for all these services to be run in-house and that they will publicly support Barnet UNISON to try to campaign to bring these services back under direct control of the Council.

The other big concern for Council workers and the low paid is PAY. 

The National Pay Campaign was a failure and whilst UNISON begins the work to address the massive deficit between the union and its membership nationally what does this mean now?

Our low paid members are facing serious financial hardship and do not have the luxury of waiting for another national pay campaign.

What is low pay in our depot based Street Scene Services ? 

A Street Cleansing operative earns between £11.31 to £12.03 and hour annual salary £22,575  

A Bin worker loader or a Gardener earns between £11.82 to £12.47 and hour annual salary £ 23,400 

A Passenger Transport Driver, Gardener Driver, Town Keeper earns between £12.24 to £12.91 and hour annual salary £24,245

A coach escort, skilled gardener driver, tractor driver earns between £12.69 to £13.39 and hour annual salary £25,128

A LGV driver operative, LGV Tractor drive earns between £13.15 to £14.12 and hour annual salary £26,508

A Bin worker driver earns between £14.12 to £15.72 and hour annual salary £29,502 

 

Barnet UNISON had its first Emergency Cost of Living Crisis meeting on 30 March 2022. The meeting agreed to progress the claim and bring the full proposal to a vote of the second Cost of Living Crisis meeting on Tuesday 26 April at 6 pm.  

What will a change in political leadership mean for our low paid Barnet UNISON members working for Barnet Council? 

The question on the lips of these workers is which political party will publicly join UNISON in advocating the return of outsourced services back into Barnet Council and to meet to discuss how to end pay poverty for low paid workers?

End.

 

Breaking News: Barnet Homes ASSIST Strike – VICTORY!

Credit: Anne-Marie Sanderson

Barnet Homes Assist plays the role of a fourth emergency service. They respond to the most vulnerable in our Barnet community, visiting clients in their homes or alerting the other emergency services after being alerted by an alarm call from a client.

The Barnet Group brought forward proposals just before Christmas to outsource or close this vital lifeline which serves 5,000 Barnet residents by the 1st of April 2022, all for the want of a budget shortfall of £160k.

Members requested a ballot for industrial action.

The ballot closed on the 16th of March.

77% of Assist UNISON members returned the ballot on time with 100% voting to take industrial action to ‘Save Assist’ and oppose the outsourcing or closure of this vital service.

The Barnet Group has listened and has made a commitment to look at other ways in which the service can become financially viable in the long term such as investment in new technology to allow Assist to bid for more contracts. This has gone some way to allay the fears of the dedicated staff who work at Assist and the vulnerable clients they serve. Talks are ongoing with the staff and Barnet UNISON about the future for the Assist service. But what is clear that Barnet UNISON members in the Barnet Group or in Barnet Council will stand together to fight against any proposal to outsource Public Services.” Patrick Hunter, Barnet Homes Convenor.

“UNISON members at ASSIST were and are prepared to fight against outsourcing of this vital frontline service that serves the most vulnerable residents in our community – we clapped for them during the pandemic – and I applaud them now, heroes, every last one of them.’’ Helen Davies, Branch Chair Barnet UNISON.

“Massive respect to our Barnet UNISON emergency response key worker members who work for the ASSIST service. They voted (100%) to take strike action with a 77% turnout in response to their employer seeking to outsource them. Today’s response from the employer that they are no longer pursuing outsourcing is welcome news. We are shortly to have fresh talks over the future for the service.” John Burgess Branch Secretary Barnet UNISON.

End.

Note to Editors: Contact details: Helen Davies Barnet UNISON on or 020 8359 2088 or email: contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

Background:

UNISON Official Ballot is on for “ASSIST” Workers to take Strike Action

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2022/03/02/unison-official-ballot-is-on-for-assist-workers-to-take-strike-action/

Barnet UNISON, Response to Barnet Homes ASSIST Proposals, 17/01/22

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Barnet-UNISON-Response-to-Barnet-Homes-ASSIST-Proposal.pdf

 

 

 

 

1 9 10 11 12 13 17