Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Independence Day in Broken Barnet

Independence Day in Broken Barnet

Updated: see below ...

Mrs Angry has not always been Mrs Angry, you know.

She has had many past lives, before reaching a state of perfection in her present earthly incarnation. During one of these previous existences she even worked for the London Borough of Broken Barnet, as she was reminded at a council meeting recently, by a certain senior officer whose blushes she will save. He remarked archly, as she entered the committee room, that of course she knew her way around, being a former employee. Goodness me, said Mrs Angry, slightly disconcerted: you have a good memory, Mr L oops Mr X ... yes, he said, dreamily - I remember it well ... I happen to have a very long memory, you know: don't be alarmed - I'm not stalking you, I promise ...

Well, thought, Mrs Angry, having a horrible flashback -that is a relief. (Has she told you the story about the man in the dry cleaners with the apron fetish? (Boy, did he choose the wrong stalkee in Mrs Angry. Apron? Mrs Angry?)

And when Mrs Angry was employed by Barnet, she was the union convenor for Libraries & Museums. Hmm. Management would visibly quake in their boots at our regular meetings, and in fact we ran rings around the numpties. Such fun. The union once sent Mrs A on a three day negotiating course. On the role playing session, when playing the part of a hardline, Thatcherite manager, Mrs Angry, experimenting with the method school of acting, reduced the poor man playing the role of a union rep to tears. (She must have an inner Tory in her somewhere: ought to have that seen to, maybe.)

Mrs Angry also sat on a council staff committee, where she first met, sigh, smooth tongued lothario Councillor John Hart - (what's happened to him, btw? Has he been re-educated and rehabilitated, or is he still locked in the potting shed?) This has given her a deep and lasting aversion to the thought of ever being a councillor and sitting through years of committee meetings, And then look what happened: Mrs Angry became Mrs Angry and is being punished for her sins by having to sit through endless tedious streams of committee meetings, on behalf of the citizens of Broken Barnet.

Anyway, while she was convenor, the trouble maker now known as Mrs Angry was one of the organisors of a massive, boroughwide strike, part of a national strike in fact. All libraries and most council services were shut down: oh and yes, it was an effective and a successful strike. We won our case, and it was a very satisfying experience. Why did we win? Because we were well you know, united, and angry, and organised.

I remember standing with colleagues on a picket line one morning, and being harangued by a foul mouthed, elderly Tory lady passing by, who told us we were a bunch of villains for daring to strike: 'I'm eighty five years old, and I've lived through two world wars, and I think you are a f*cking disgrace!' One of the striking librarians looked at her and yelled back: 'Madam: you're eighty five years old, you've lived through two world wars - and you've learnt NOTHING!'

Union activism is enjoying a resurgence, now. Funny to see it all come around again. And, to use Councillor Coleman's phrase: cometh the hour, cometh the man. The going is tough, and the tough have got going too. Barnet Unison secretary John Burgess cares desperately about the future of this borough, and the terrible threat to the security of his members' jobs and wellbeing. He cares desperately, as do all Unison members and all staff members, about the future of the services that this council has always provided to residents. He has worked tirelessly to organise this strike, after fruitless negotiation with Barnet managers.

With the encouragement and support of Unison, council staff about to be outsourced and dumped with private contractors, which will mean loss of any long term employment security, or income, or pension , or protection of conditions of service have voted to take strike action today to protest about their treatment. John Burgess, Unison and all staff members who took part are to be commended for their courage in the face of petty intimidation from Barnet's management team: threatening letters, poster campaigns - and the last resort of a lock out for half a day as a punishment for daring to take industrial action. The truth is that the senior management team and the Tory Cabinet are rattled, and don't know how to deal with the situation - especially when the big outsourcing companies are sniffing about, and watching how things are, in the state of Broken Barnet.

To the many council staff who read this blog: your colleagues deserve your support and respect for taking this action today. They have stood up for what they know is right, and they have shown the cynical merchants peddling the One Barnet twaddle that the staff in this borough are not going to just roll over and die, so as to facilitate the profits of the private sector companies waiting at the gates, and their friends in the citadel of Broken Barnet. If you are not already a member, you need to think about joining so that when your time comes, and your job is on the line, you have a way of fighting back.

The Barnet strike today has been mentioned on BBC news, at the TUC conference, and a film crew is on its way here now. It's a big deal: the beginning of the end of easycouncil.

And now Mrs Angry is off to a lobby at the Town Hall. More later.

*Updated 9.00pm

So anyway ... lobby outside Town Hall: big crowd, banners, speakers ... talking of banners, Barnet Alliance members were there with no 2 banner, looking about nervously for anglican vicars with evil intent in their eyes ... speakers: Unison speakers read out messages of support, including, rather touchingly, an expression of solidarity from an Egyptian union, whose struggle against repression has taught them to feel compassion for the benighted workforce of the Tory regime here in Broken Barnet ... then the speaker was back on the megaphone, thanking the Barnet bloggers for their 'sterling efforts', and fixing Mrs Angry in the eye suggesting ...'and not looking at any one in particular, if she would like to come up here and speak ... ' 'NO ...' mouthed Mrs Angry in dismay, shaking her head ...' She would NOT, thank you all the same ...'

Unfortunately Mrs Angry was unable to stay for the full council meeting tonight, so hopefully one of the other bloggers will fill you in on the details. As she left the Town Hall, she got into conversation with a Barnet social worker who had been at the lobby, whose job was was due to be outsourced in January: already working under extreme difficulty as a result of Tory budget cuts which have real impact on the lives of vulnerable residents, and expected to work alongside 'volunteers' rather than properly trained professional workers: his own future was uncertain: the TUPE arrangements that Barnet like to pretend safeguard the jobs of outsourced workers is simply balls, and no worker facing this prospect has any long term security.

The residents of this borough really are largely unaware of the scale of what One Barnet is going to mean for them, and their families, if allowed to proceed, but we must tell them, because we have to fight this, if we want to preserve any real hope of a decent standard of service for those most dependent on local authority support.

Over the last few weeks one glaring truth has become horribly clear to Mrs Angry: the Tory leadership and councillors of Broken Barnet are largely an irrelevance. This borough is run by the senior management team, and they are determined to push the One Barnet outsourcing programme through, regardless of the consequences to the residents of this borough. If the full scale of privatisation proceeds, as soon as they can they will clear off onto pastures new, and when everything falls apart they will be a million miles away, and they won't give a f*ck. It is we who will be left to deal with the damage caused, and the shambling, idiotic Tory councillors who have allowed this to happen will be history. There is a lesson in there, somewhere, Tory councillors of Broken Barnet, if you have the brains to work it out.

Go on, surprise Mrs Angry, work it out, and do the right thing, for once: you have the power, if you only knew it.


baarnett said...

The Barnet Press is reporting:
"A council spokeswoman said: "The council has received legal advice that a half-day strike is partial performance of the contract, and that staff taking part in action should therefore be treated as failing to perform normal duties on the day. Staff will therefore forego a whole day's pay."

That sounds like rubbish legal advice, does it not?

Presumably even an hour's strike is "failing to perform normal duties on the day"!

Might there be low cost, low risk action to get any illegally withheld money, through a Small Claims Court, perhaps?

Mrs Angry said...

oh, come come, baarnett, you know that the London Borough of Barnet has a particular expertise in the field of contracts: if they say there has been partial performance of a contract, it must be so, mustn't it? A feckin shame, of course, that partial performance of a (non existant) contract didn't bother our senior officers when MetPro was emmployed by the authority ...

Anonymous said...

Just seen it on the Ten O'Clock News. Your time as convenor is still remembered in this household as a golden age. Hasta la victoria sempre!

Mrs Angry said...

thank you, Comrade Roper. In my respectable middle aged I should be now becoming more Conservative and respectable. Something has gone terribly wrong somewhere, as I find myself feeling increasingly lurching further and further leftwards. And not very respectable.

Mrs Angry said...

rambling now, got to go to bed.

baarnett said...

Yes doctor, we gave her some Horlicks and a tablet, and she's gone off to sleep now.

She was mumbling as she drifted off about the Tory cabinet "having something of the night about them", but it became more and more unintelligible.

Mrs Angry said...

that would explain why I overslept, then baarnett. Oh dear. Off for bracing walk on the heath to wake me up, because... Residents Forum tonight. More fun with Mrs Angry.