Barnet Council Housing Repairs workers 100 % vote for all out strike action

20 September 2022.

What is this dispute about?

In one word it’s quite simple…………“Solidarity”

One of our members a Barnet Council Housing Repairs worker was injured at work.

His employer Barnet Homes, an organisation 100% owned by Barnet Council refused to provide sick pay.

Barnet UNISON tried to persuade the employer to reconsider but the employer refuses to change their position.

Our members were upset at the treatment of their fellow worker and in solidarity demanded to be balloted. All of our manual workers were clear that it was a matter of principle. Any of them could be injured at work. They understand the terror of trying to survive in the worst cost of living crisis in 75 years on low pay. They don’t understand why their employer is deliberately taking an aggressive attack on their work colleague. All of these workers worked throughout Covid and at one time were clapped as key workers.

The other back story is that our member who was injured is a Kosovo refugee. Very few people will understand what he has endured in his journey from Kosovo to London.

All we are asking is for the employer to pay his sick pay for the time period he was denied pay.

There have been many attempts by Barnet UNISON to reach out to Barnet Homes to try to avoid this dispute. Barnet UNISON had negotiated a new contract for these workers, with sick pay. To try to avert this dispute Barnet UNISON asked Barnet Homes to bring the contract forward by 3 weeks to cover our member when he was injured. This proposal was rejected.

We cannot understand why Barnet Homes prefers to engage in a battle about an amount of money which is almost insignificant to Barnet Homes but means all the world to this one member of staff. Our members would much rather be working for Barnet residents and providing a vital service, but the work they do cannot be at the expense of one of their colleagues being mistreated.

Barnet UNISON has approached Barnet Council and Barnet Labour Party on several occasions over the past four months to try to resolve this dispute.

The results of our strike ballot are as follows:

  • 100% turnout
  • 100% vote for strike action.

Our members have voted for all-out strike action. This means they are going out and staying out. This is not a 3 day strike then back to work.

Our members are angry and determined.

“Dear Helen and Branch members

Congratulations! What a fantastic result and fantastic show of solidarity to your comrade. ‘Workers united we will not be defeated’

I send a message of solidarity to your branch and members who have decided that they will not leave anyone behind, the strongest and greatest position any workforce can show!!

When you have the dates let me know and I will make every effort to attend your picket line.” (Andrea Egan UNISON President)

Details of when the strike action will start will be published in due course.

End.

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

Background:

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

https://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2022/08/25/breaking-news-official-strike-ballot-begins-for-barnet-council-housing-repairs-workers/

  1. 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/

  1. 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/

4. 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/

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/

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

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