Barnet UNISON will always speak up for our members regardless of employer. We are a trade union, and our role is to organise and support members in the workplace. The last 13 years Austerity policies have had a detrimental impact on our members. Many of our members are exhausted, overworked, stressed out and the cost-of-living crisis is plunging many of our members into debt.
Our branch has organsied many strikes over the last couple fo decades.
However, in our recent strike of Mental Health social workers there appears to be a change in approach towards Barnet UNISON. This is surprising and disappointing that we are now under a Labour Administration. Many of our members are expecting things to be different than when the Tories were in power. Its 17 months since the last election and by 12 October, Barnet UNISON will have taken 20 days of strike action which is more than we had under the last 6 years of the Tories.
To those who keep asking, Barnet UNISON has tried to keep an open dialogue with Barnet Labour Party.
Below are a list of concerns:
1. Barnet Council have refused to talk to Barnet UNISON about life and limb cover. This is the first time in 28 years of being a Barnet UNISON rep in Barnet Council that this has happened. “This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.”
2. Barnet Council emailed staff before the strike asking members to respond if they were taking strike action. Whilst the employer can do this, this is the first time they have done this in the last 28 years . “This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.”
3. Barnet UNISON wrote to the Chief Executive pointing out the email to members was intimidatory and that senior managers should approach me about Life and Limb cover. Barnet UNISON was assured that senior managers would contact me. We have had three days of strike action and another 3 days of strike action this week and to date no one has contacted me. “This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.”
4. Managers have sent several managers to one of the workplaces to in our view to try and intimidate our members. These managers never go to this workplace, and they don’t work in Mental Health Services. This is a childish act which is backfiring. However, the message is clear that management in Adult Social Care are trying to sidestep having to deal with Barnet UNISON. This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.
5. Barnet UNISON has seen an email sent by a senior manager to a UNISON member who was on strike and therefore unable to respond, asking if they were taking strike action. This email shows that senior managers had no plan for life and limb cover. We know because some of our members were contacted on the picket line. This is a shocking lack of respect for the service but towards Barnet UNISON. This never happened under the 20 years under Tory rule in Barnet Council.
Before Barnet UNISON members took strike action Barnet Council had been claiming for 9 months that there were no recruitment and retention issues.
On the eve of the formal strike ballot Barnet Council changed their minds and said that there was a recruitment and retention issue but not just in Mental Health but across Adult Social Care. They made an offer of 2.6%.
Barnet Council have consistently denied that they need recruitment and retention payments but last year in a report on Mental Health services they agreed to a recruitment and retention payment (6.2%) for one job role.
Barnet Mental Health social workers rejected the 2.6% deeming it an insult.
Barnet UNISON members working for Adult Social Care have rejected the 2.6% and Barnet UNISON will be registering our claim in a formal meeting on 11 October. If an agreement cannot be reached the issue will be escalated to a meeting with the Chief Executive. If we do not reach an agreement at this meeting a formal dispute will be raised, and Barnet UNISON will be requesting a lawful strike ballot for these members.
Our members are clear that the only way for the service users to receive they urgently need is for the Council to address the chronic staffing issues.
- Already the wait for an initial screening, which should be completed in 5 days as per the policy is now 12 weeks.
- The waiting list is now up to 14 months.
The service is in crisis, but managers are in denial.
Each day of strike action increases the waiting lists. The longer senior management fail to take this seriously pushes the service deeper into crisis.
Since 1 September 2023 two staff have already left and there are more planning to leave if things don’t change.
Now is not the time for macho politics. Senior management need to come to the table with a sensible offer. If Family Services can pay up to 25% on top of basic, then Adults need to match it.