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
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.