FBU response to Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary:

“The Inquiry’s interim report must finally be a turning point for fire safety in the UK. Warning after warning from previous fires were ignored; central government must now take responsibility for ensuring that recommendations are applied nationwide, not just in London; this has never simply been a matter for the London Fire Brigade. That change can only be achieved by establishing a new, credible and accountable body responsible for fire and rescue service policy in the UK.

“Firefighters stand in solidarity with the bereaved, survivors and residents and share their grief for the lives lost that night. They have an absolute right to ask difficult questions. However, we have said from the start that the order of issues to be investigated has been entirely wrong. The Inquiry’s structure prioritises scrutiny of firefighters, who did everything that they could to save lives, over investigating the critical issues of public safety that led to the fire and caused it to spread in such a disastrous manner.

“Before any firefighter arrived that night, Grenfell Tower was a death trap. Firefighters that night acted bravely in impossible circumstances, many of them repeatedly risking their own lives to save others. We welcome that this is reflected in the Inquiry’s report.

“Firefighters and control room staff are, as with any profession, only able to operate within their training and procedures. It is clear that no one had planned or prepared for an incident like Grenfell. The planning by fire service policy makers did not take account of a fire where compartmentation failed on such a scale.

“It’s disgraceful that over two years since the fire and there has been no major review or assessment of the Stay Put policy. This could have been done within months of the fire and we have raised this with government ministers on numerous occasions. Concerns about stay put policy were raised with central government years before Grenfell, the government must stop dragging its heels and recognise the urgent need to act.

“There was no other evacuation policy available to firefighters on the night, the report rightly recognises this. Those on the ground believed that a whole-scale evacuation would have been unsafe, potentially causing further fatalities.

“We strongly refute the report’s assertion that it would have been possible or safe to evacuate more than 150 people via a narrow smoke-logged stairwell with just 30 firefighters. There is no evidence to suggest that this was possible. It is particularly alarming that the Inquiry failed on this issue to seek the advice of its own expert advisor on firefighting matters. There is therefore currently no way of knowing if evacuation could have saved more lives.

“We are disappointed that the report makes no reference to the vast additional resources needed to implement its recommendations. It’s time for government to provide national leadership, to properly fund and coordinate fire and rescue services and ensure these urgent matters of public safety are addressed.

“The true culprits of the fire are those who wrapped the building in flammable cladding, who gutted the UK’s fire safety regime, who ignored the warnings from previous fires, and who did not hear the pleas of a community worried for their safety. We will be watching phase two of the Inquiry closely to ensure they are held to account. But we cannot wait for years for the Inquiry to conclude. Change is needed now.”

CWU reacts to High Court Judgement

The CWU is extremely disappointed at the ruling and we have no doubt our members and representatives will feel the same way. Following 18 months of negotiations, including external mediation, the company’s actions are nothing more than a desperate delaying tactic from a board who are increasingly out of touch with the views of its workforce.

Legal proceedings and Royal Mail’s court room politics will not solve the company’s problems. The union has nothing to fear from mediation and unless there is significant movement from the company on a range of issues and a satisfactory agreement is concluded, the union will be calling further strike action once the mediation process has been completed. Furthermore, we will not allow Royal Mail to string out the process beyond the minimum required period.

CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said “The company are deluded if they believe their court room politics will resolve this dispute. Instead the company’s actions will have the complete opposite effect. Postal Workers’ attitude towards the company will harden and it makes us more determined than ever to defend our members pensions, jobs, service and achieve our objectives.”

“Unless the company significantly shifts its position on a range of issues and we can quickly conclude a good agreement for our members then strike action is inevitable. “

“We walked into the court today with a massive 90% yes vote for strike action – we walked out of the court today with a massive 90% vote for strike action. We want an agreement and will comply with the injunction to undertake further external mediation. But sooner rather than later Royal Mail Group will have to confront the harsh reality that they are completely out of touch with the views of its workforce.“

CWU Deputy General Secretary Terry Pullinger said “We saw today that Royal Mail Group would rather spend time, money and resources playing politics than engaging with this union to reach an agreement. Our members are square behind the CWU and from this moment we are putting Royal Mail on notice of further action should the mediation fail. Let me be clear – we will not stand by and see this once great institution run into the ground. Our members will stand up and save it by whatever means are necessary.”

“We will use the mediation process to seek an agreement but also to galvanise support amongst our members and the public. Be in no doubt though, if Royal Mail Group are not serious about reaching an agreement we will not hesitate to call strike action immediately after the mediation period closes.”

Labour Councillors Support a living WAGE

Labour councillors are calling for the former Fremantle care workers that have been transferred to the Barnet Group to be paid at least London’s Living Wage. Figures from Barnet Unison show that the care workers are being paid less than the London Living Wage which is currently £10.55 per hour. The London Living Wage has been identified as the minimum rate of pay that workers in the Capital need to cover the cost of living essentials. The Barnet Group policy is to pay all its workers at least the London Living Wage.

Leader of the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Barry Rawlings raised the issue at last week’s Policy & Resources Committee (3 October), and secured agreement from Council Leader, Dan Thomas that a feasibility report setting out the cost would be brought back to the next meeting.

Labour councillors are encouraging people to sign the Barnet Unison petition in support of the care workers.

Cllr Barry Rawlings said: “Care workers provide the most crucial services to our elderly and disabled residents, and they deserve to be paid a living wage.

“I look forward to pressing the case for all Barnet Group employees to be paid at least London’s Living Wage at the next Policy & Resources Committee meeting, and I will also be raising this at the next Full Council meeting on 29 October

Statement signed by Diane Abbott and others launches major campaign to defend EU migrants

Stand Up To Racism has launched a statement for a major campaign to defend EU migrants rights in the wake of a racist attack by Boris Johnson’s cabinet, signed by Diane Abbott, Alf Dubs, several trade union leaders, MPs, MEPs, local politicians, faith group leaders and anti racist activists
See the Guardian letter HERE
Sign the statement online HERE
Download the statement as a petition HERE
to use in workplaces, colleges and communities

This week we’ve witnessed a spectacular pace of events unfold, with Boris Johnson proroguing parliament, losing a vote against him over his plans for a Tory No Deal Brexit, and expelling 21 Tory MPs for defying the whip and voting with the opposition.

For all who are horrified to see this hard racist in Number 10—who is following in the footsteps of Trump and deliberately launching a vicious intensification of the ‘hostile environment’ and racism—it has been uplifting to see tens of thousands taking to the streets to get him out of office and to oppose the Tories. Stand Up To Racism has joined demonstrations, such as the People’s Assembly protests at parliament and around the country, outside Downing Street as Johnson made his announcement last Wednesday, and at the Home Office last night to challenge his shocking attack on over three million EU migrants living in Britain.

We say, whether you voted Leave or Remain, it is urgent that we unite to oppose all racist division, Islamophobia and Antisemitism, challenge the ‘hostile environment for migrants and refugees, and build a mass campaign to defend EU migrants whose rights are under attack by Johnson’s Tory cabinet. 

It is clear that Boris Johnson is using his office as prime minister to go on the offensive in intensifying the ‘hostile environment’ and is also pushing a level of racism from the heart of the establishment that aims to turn the clock back, normalising racist rhetoric.

That’s why Stand Up To Racism has launched this statement, signed by Diane Abbott, Alf Dubs, several union general secretaries, MPs and MEPs, faith groups and anti racist campaigners, to defend EU migrants’ rights. 

In every local area, in union branches, colleges and communities, Stand Up To Racism groups and activists should use the petition version of the statement, and the online version, to garner widespread support for its demands.

Stand Up To Racism is also calling a national day of action to defend EU migrants on Wednesday 2 October. We encourage local groups, affiliated unions and supporters to take round the statement in their workplaces, colleges and communities, take selfies showing support, and protests in town centres on the day as well as take part in social media promoting the day of action. We want everyone to use the statement and upload the signatures from their campaigning via the online petition too.

Stand Up To Racism is encouraging it’s local groups to call public meetings in localities over the campaign to defend EU migrants. See template for artwork for public meetings HERE

On 29 September (if the Tory party conference is still going ahead that is!), Stand Up To Racism is encouraging everyone to join the People’s Assembly demonstration in Manchester. We will be marching as a bloc to End the hostile environment and defend EU migrants.

The theme of defending EU migrants and more generally challenging the hostile environment will be the focus of the Stand Up To Racism and Love Music Hate Racism gig and fringe at this year’s TUC Congress. The event is on Sunday, 8 September, at The Arch in Brighton. See full details HERE

To discuss any issues around the campaign, or what you are planning locally or in your union branch or college, contact us as the office at info@standuptoracism.org.uk 

Motion FROM BARNET UNISION: CLIMATE CHANGE IS A TRADE UNION ISSUE

#ClimateChange is a trade union issue.

It’s not enough to just demand a #ClimateChange Strike. We need joint trade union action to begin conversations with our members about how the causes of ClimateChange are already impacting on their health and well being.

Our branch has recently passed a motion which we already starting to implement .

Branch resolves:

  • To commit the branch into entering urgent negotiations with Barnet Council and other employers in order to identify the following.
    • The risks to the health and wellbeing of workers regularly exposed to air pollution.
    • What measures/protection can be put in place to mitigate the hard of air pollution?
    • What health checks can be made available to workers regularly exposed to air pollution?
  • The branch contacts our union to ascertain any possible legal claims for injury at work as a result of regular expose to air pollution.
  • To back the call for a climate strike on 20 September
  • To support the call by the UCU for the TUC to organise a 30 minute workday solidarity stoppage to coincide with the global school student strike on the 20th.
  • To call upon our national executive to support the UCU’s motion at this year’s TUC congress calling for a 30 minute workday stoppage.

For our branch to argue for and call a stoppage on the 20th September and for our branch to campaign for the maximum possible show of solidarity with school students 20th. It would be great if other trade union activists across London began similar campaigns to deal with the causes of #ClimateChange

We need a general election

The Prime Minister is right to have resigned. She has now accepted what the country has known for months: she cannot govern, and nor can her divided and disintegrating party.

The burning injustices she promised to tackle three years ago are even starker today.

The Conservative Party has utterly failed the country over Brexit and is unable to improve people’s lives or deal with their most pressing needs.

Parliament is deadlocked and the Conservatives offer no solutions to the other major challenges facing our country.

The last thing the country needs is weeks of more Conservative infighting followed by yet another unelected Prime Minister.

Whoever becomes the new Conservative Leader must let the people decide our country’s future, through an immediate general election.

Barnet Council to pull out of major care homes contract after its failure to deliver adequate services

Barnet Council has publicly announced plans to pull out of a major contract which was responsible for delivering three key care homes – Meadowside, Apthorp Lodge and Dellfield Court. The provider of these services has begun to enter into TUPE consultations with a view to handing over its care homes to the 100% council owned company, Your Choice Barnet.

This follows a damning report issued by the Care Quality Commission into Apthorp Care Centre, in Brunswick Park, that Barnet published in January 23 2019, which deemed the service inadequate – and placed the care home into special measures. The report followed an unannounced inspection in December 2018.

The CQC report highlighted that the Centre was understaffed, saying that under-staffing levels had “a significant impact on people’s dignity. For example, we observed two people, on separate occasions, had soiled themselves and were walking through communal areas of the flats.” Fremantle has a poor record on ensuring staff and worker well being – having in the past proposed reducing care workers’ basic salary by 20-25%, bringing care worker pay down to well below the London Living Wage.

Adults and Social Care spokesperson for the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Reema Patel said,

“This sorry state of affairs illustrates two things. Firstly, the Council needs to urgently review its approach to securing high quality services that ensure worker well being. Secondly, it highlights the extent to which national cuts to social care funding are proving impossible to manage. We welcome the return of care homes to council control, but more is required – increased investment in social care funding in particular.”

For more information contact:

Cllr Reema Patel: 07398 220 745

To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8359 2568

Barnet says Goodbye to Fremantle

Barnet UNISON has just been informed that the Fremantle Trust is to enter into TUPE consultations to hand over the running of its care homes: Meadowside, Apthorp Lodge and Dellfield Court to Your Choice Barnet.

We welcome this transfer as a positive step in the right direction. Your Choice Barnet is 100% owned by the Council which places the running of the homes under greater local accountability. We will do all we can to continue to represent our members who have consistently done their best to deliver support to vulnerable residents, often under difficult circumstances.

We believe there are now real opportunities to address the concerns of staff and residents in a positive and constructive way and look forward to working with Your Choice Barnet to achieve this.

The transfer of staff and services is planned to take place at the beginning of July 2019.

Barnet UNISON has already approached Your Choice Barnet in preparation for formal TUPE transfer meetings which will be looking to take place shortly.

Barnet Tories to introduce parking charges at local parks

Conservative-run Barnet Council has agreed to charge up to £6 a day for parking at local parks. The decision was forced through by Conservative councillors at this week’s Environment Committee (21 Jan). Labour councillors voted against the policy.

 Although the principal of charging was agreed, a consultation will be held on the charging proposals for specific parks.

The parks affected in the first phase are: Barnet Playing Fields, King George V Playing Fields, Mill Hill Park, Old Courthouse Recreation Ground, Scratchwood Open Space and West Hendon Playing Fields.

The Council believe the policy will raise up to £150,000 a year.

Labour’s Environment spokesperson, Cllr Alan Schneiderman said: “This is an ill-conceived money making scheme from Barnet Tories that is simply going to lead to park goers parking in neighbouring roads, many of which already lack enough spaces for residents. Rather than another consultation on this scheme, it simply needs to be scrapped”.


Ends.
Notes:
1. A copy of the report on parking charges at local parks (Agenda Item 8): http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=695&MId=9733&Ver=4

Statement from BTUC and BAPS on Capita at Brent Council

Barnet Trades Council and Barnet Alliance for Public Services are concerned and dismayed that Brent Council wants to renew its contract with Capita. Our experience of Capita is that it has delivered appalling service and therefore we, together with our local Labour Party, are campaigning for all services run by Capita for Barnet to be brought in-house forthwith. #kickoutcapita is our grass-roots campaign.

Examples of Capita’s misdemeanours in Barnet include:

  • A two million pound fraud carried out by a Capita employee, Capita’s lax and opaque processes completely failed to detect
  • A call centre which has consistently failed to answer residents’ calls in the required time
  • Incorrectly withdrawing travel passes from disabled and vulnerable people
  • Actually cost taxpayers more money than in-house services would, through extra charges and “gainshare” payments designed to maximise their profits at public expense
  • Performed extremely poorly in audits of the council and brought down the overall standards of council services

We urge Brent Council not to renew its contract with Capita. Capita, along with other failed and failing outsourcing giants like Carillion and Interserve have proved to be entirely failed models. We want to Kick Out Capita from Barnet and bring all services back in-house and under local democratic control. Brent Council should do likewise. The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell has spoken brilliantly about how properly funded, democratically accountable in-sourced public services are the future for the country and we agree. Together we are stronger.

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