As reported last week, tomorrow will see planned industrial action by a number of Barnet council employees. These workers are facing the outsourcing of their service to the private sector companies queueing up to take advantage of the One Barnet externalisation programme. They are taking this action, reluctantly, because the privatisation of their services will not only mean the real threat of the loss of their jobs, and livelihoods, but because the services they provide will inevitably deteriorate and fail to provide the quality of performance that the residents of this borough are entitled to expect.
Last week we saw the extraordinary developments of threatening letters sent, and withdrawn, to these employees, followed by the ludicrous installation of giant billboards around council offices, all part of a concerted effort to intimidate staff intending to take action tomorrow.
This morning, Unison were informed by management that staff who have voted to strike for half a day tomorrow will in fact lose a whole day's pay. They will be sent home if they admit that they are taking part in the half day action: yes - that's right: welcome to the good old days of the 1970's: it's a lock out! Goodness me, Mrs Angry is overwhelmed with nostalgia.
Here is part of a statement from Unison secretary, John Burgess:
I wanted to write to you all and try to provide some clarification and reassurance regarding the very fierce conversation that has been taking place between UNISON and the Council.
I recognise that you have been bombarded with a mass of communications that will have been very confusing throughout what has been a very fast moving week.
This morning UNISON members have all received a letter from the Council threatening staff that if they take strike action tomorrow they will be deducted a full day’s pay regardless whether they work until 1pm. Furthermore I am hearing that staff are being told that there will be managers on the gates of NLBP to check staff in. If staff do not sign a register stating they will not be taking half day strike action they will be sent home.
The Council is trying to impose what used to be called a ‘Lock out!’
As a UNISON member it was agreed by all that you would take half a day and therefore lose half a day’s pay. That is what most reasonable employers would have deducted under these circumstances. However the Councils actions are neither proportionate and reasonable.
The lateness at which the Council have given this letter demonstrates they fear that UNISON members will all walk out tomorrow.
I can confirm UNISON will make up the cost of any financial loss up until 1pm on Tuesday 13 September.
Messages of support are flooding in from the community and other trade unions.
As a Barnet resident and public sector employee I wanted to send a quick email to express my support for you and your members and the proposed “Barnet Independence Day” action on Tuesday. As someone who has experienced being outsourced but who was then fortunate enough to get back into the public sector, my experience tells me that it would be inconceivable for a contractor to take over delivery on the scale intended by the London Borough of Barnet without there being both a degradation of services and in the terms of conditions for staff who are transferred; this is how private companies make their profit from such contracts.
Hopefully your campaign will open a few more Barnet residents eyes to what is going on and more importantly, to what we might end up with in Barnet in terms of a service from our local authority. I wish you and Barnet Unison all the best and will try and join you at the Town Hall for at least part of the rally on Tuesday evening.”
To all readers at NLBP (except the senior officers, who can get back to counting the paperclips and staring out of the window): support your colleagues facing the privatisation of their jobs - it'll be your turn soon, after all.
There is a distinct whiff of panic in the air now, emanating from our Tory politicians and their senior management team: now is the time to stand up and be counted, and not to be intimidated by these eejits. One Barnet is tottering on its feet: give it a push and see what happens.