Sunday, 16 October 2016

Proud to be in Barnet UNISON – Thank you Unison reps, staff, volunteers,members

The last couple of weeks have been a very challenging week for our activists and I am so proud of all of them. .

Everyone knows that here in Barnet we have been subjected to ideology of “mass outsourcing” or as the consultants call it (and look how expensive they are here) a “Commissioning Council.”

If you look at this Council report which was submitted to Performance and Contract Management Committee, Tuesday 6th September, 2016

View Tables 3 & 4

·         Commissioning headcount is 170 and their agency spend Quarter 1 16/17 is £1,013,000

compared with

·         Family Services headcount is 638 and their agency spend Quarter 1 16/17 is £1, 782,000

I freely admit I am not a financial expert but the above spend by Commissioning with such a small establishment does seem excessive, or could it be that UNISON was right and that you can’t mass outsource without spending millions on monitoring. When Barnet UNISON kept raising this point we were told the council would be adopting a “Thin Client” which meant a small commissioning ‘light touch’ approach.

Why do I raise this point?
I raise this point because since the mass outsourcing our Agency Spend has been accelerating (and many staff have commented that it appears to be out of control) from £7,732, 269 in 2012 to a scary £17,907, 052 in 2016 and going by the last quarter (£6.9 million) there is a high risk that the Council could go over £20 million on agency/consultancy spend. Please remember the money does not all go to the agency/consultant, there is a commission paid to the company that procures these staff. I am uncertain as to how much of the above is commission, but I guess 10% would be a conservative figure.

Our Library Services are facing brutal cuts which will decimate a once proud and valued (by residents) service all for a saving of around £1.8 million. Yes I said it right £1.8 million.

Barnet UNISON along with others have asked the Council to reconsider getting agency/consultancy spend under control and stop the destruction of the Library service. To date our proposal has been shunned.

We want all of our members to work in a safe workplace and we want all of the employers to ensure a work place is safe. The last few weeks our fears were brought to a head dues to a number of incidents which you can get a flavour of here “Health & Safety”

As someone who has had this year to start using mental health services instead of my other role as a mental health worker I was proud of the responses from members to the proposed cuts in Mental Health Services. It is well documented that Mental Health Services appear to be at the brink of collapse and some quite rightly will say they are already collapsing. I am proud our branch has responded the cuts and you can read our report entitled “Unsafe and Unsustainable” with our full report here

Our hard working library reps are busy organising a response to 46% of Barnet Library workers from being sacked

and we are also organising and publicising the 5th November Libraries, Museums, Galleries demonstration

If that was not enough we now have a major job defending our fantastic Street Scene members from being outsourced

For those staff working for Barnet Homes, this campaign does impact on you. You have a great convenor who is 100% committed to defending and representing your interests and it is why we have issued a “risk warning” to the Barnet Group board which meets on Monday 17 October to consider if they really do want to run Street Scene services or concentrate all their resources on Housing issues instead.

All of the above would be a major campaign for any union branch the fact is that on top of the day to day representation/case work, restructures etc. Our branch has been having to organise for major outsourcing projects for the last 7 years.

There are those who say that they wouldn’t be surprised if the Barnet branch collapsed simply due to the relentless attacks brought by mass outsourcing.

I agree.

I don’t know how we are still standing, yet I do, if that makes sense? We have some special officers, reps, members and a brilliant staff team and volunteers who all together are a “band of brothers and sisters”. We keep being knocked down and we keep getting back up. Our membership has managed to keep stable over the last seven years which is a testimony to the officers, reps, members and a brilliant staff team and volunteers who have serviced our members over that time.

When I started writing this piece it was meant to take 5 minutes…….

So Barnet UNISON officers, members, reps, volunteers, while I am still hear I will continue to try my best to stand with you and when Barnet UNISON says “We won’t back down!” we really mean it.

Solidarity and good mental health.

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