M&S: Don’t keep your staff in the dark over massive cuts

Marks & Spencer announced that they’re planning a massive restructuring, closing 100 stores by 2022.

That potentially puts tens of thousands of jobs at risk. But workers still are in the dark as to whether or how long they will still have jobs. M&S are announcing closures in waves, and keeping staff at other branches in the dark. None of their 70,000 workers know if they’re safe.

That’s just cruel, and no way to treat their loyal workforce. Many have worked for them for years, providing the high standards of customer service that are a hallmark for the company.

Engaging honestly and openly with their staff from the outset could help the company plan better to save jobs and restructure more responsibly.

M&S need to move to fix this now:
• Enter into meaningful consultation with their staff through their union on the restructuring plan. Don’t keep workers in the dark about their futures.
• Give their staff an assurance that they will work with the union to minimise the impact of the restructuring on workers and jobs.

If you work at M&S and are worried about the closure plans, you can contact USDAW at enquiries@usdaw.org.uk.

Save Barnet Libraries Protest on Monday the 23rd

“We were a group of adults and kids chanting outside the minister’s department, holding up our signs and singing through the megaphone. There were also kids who climbed up onto the stone wall and waved their signs and took turns with the megaphone, chanting.”  — Raphael Marshall-Strang, age 9, describing the protest.

Children from Barnet with their parents and grandparents delivered an invitation to the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) to the new Culture Secretary, Jeremy Wright QC, to come on a tour of Barnet Libraries in September 2018. It was handed over to DCMS representatives Simon Richardson, head of libraries, who has been handling the Save Barnet Libraries’ complaint and his colleague Sheila Bennett, head of libraries strategy and delivery and head of the libraries task force team.

Erini Rodis of SBL, who attended the protest with her two children says:

“The protest went very well and we hope the new Culture Secretary will accept the children’s invitation to be shown around Barnet libraries. I think it would really help him to understand what it’s like when pin codes replace staff and children and many other vulnerable users have very little access to the library. We need the staff back”.

Rob Strang, who helped to draft the SBL complaint and attended the protest with his children says:

“We spoke to officials from the department who work on the libraries team, who assured us that they are taking our complaint seriously and treating it with care. But there is little evidence of those assurances in the actions of their political leaders. It has been 19 months since we made our complaint. The Council is in breach of its obligation to provide a comprehensive library service. The Secretary of State has a statutory duty to enforce that obligation. When will the Ministers observe the law and take up their legal duties?”

Emily Burnham of SBL who attended with two of her children says:

“We have submitted substantial evidence to DCMS and it’s time for an answer! We hope that the new Culture Secretary will realise that access to staffed libraries is a crucial issue. We know that library use has dropped drastically over the past year. Last year’s summer reading challenge failed – there were only 1500 entries compared to 4000 the year before the services were cut. Hugh Vivian, the head teacher of Hollickwood Primary in N10 wrote to DCMS saying that he had to send families to the libraries in nearby Haringey because of the lack of provision in Barnet! Of the 187000 library card holders in the borough, only about 18000 have applied for a pin code to use the unstaffed libraries– that really shows how off-putting the new system is.”

Emmanuel Amevor who attended the protest with his grandson says:
“My grandson was a regular user of our local library on Golders Green Road, before we were locked out. We were very happy to be part of the noise making on this protest. We hope the powers that be will take notice”.

Umeyma Sahal age 16, who has just finished at the Archer Academy, couldn’t attend the protest but is keen to show her support:
“In the house it’s quite noisy so the library would be the perfect place to study. I tried to use it but with the new pin code system I needed to get permission from the school and my parents before I could get in. I had enough to think about with studying for my exams and I ended up using the school classroom to do my GCSE revision instead.”

Children who attended the protest say:
“Before the demonstration all the children signed an invitation to ministers, inviting them to take a tour of Barnet libraries. We took it to the demonstration and gave it to the minister’s office.” Alma Marshall Strang age 11 from East Finchley.

“I hope the Culture Secretary comes down to visit us so we can show him around. I am about to go to secondary school but I still can’t get in to my library most of the time” Jake Moss, 11 years old, East Finchley

“Are we going to come and shout at the government every year? It’s not fair to be locked out of the library just because my mum forgot her card. My friend has a library card but his mum doesn’t go because she works so they can’t go into the library” Gabriel Rodis, age 6 pupil at Martin Primary School.

“I can walk home alone from school but I’m not allowed into the library on my own? Really? That’s so stupid!” Tommy Gubbins age 9 pupil at Martin Primary School.

“I’ve recently got back my GCSE options – now I need to put in hard work. I was hoping I could do it at the library but I’m under age and I can’t get in most of the time. And they’ve got rid of the study space too.” Sahr Kamanda age 14 pupil at The Compton School.

“My brothers and I used to do Kumon at the library every week and take out books too. Now Kumon doesn’t happen there anymore and I go to the library a lot less. It just isn’t the same as it was before. My mum ends up buying me more books but I can’t try them out first like I used to.” Siah Kamanda age 8 pupil at Martin Primary School.

“Libraries help kids to learn about the world and their imagination” Isaiah Akuffo, age 8, pupil at Wessex Gardens Primary School.

“Why is the library always closed? I hope they listen to us” Lottie Pearson age 7 Martin Primary School.

Barnet Labour Group statement on the Resources Committee

Barnet Council has agreed that terminating the two Capita contracts will be fully tested and considered in a Full Business Case looking at bringing Capita-run services in-house. The decision was made at the Policy & Resources Committee on 19 July which discussed options to realign the Council’s relationship with Capita.

A report in the name of the Leader of the Council recommended ‘Option 2’ – preparing a Full Business Case to insource a limited number of Capita-run services such as Highways, Estates, HR and Finance.

Barnet’s Labour councillors proposed that ‘Option 3’  – which would bring the partnership with Capita to an end – should be included in the Full Business Case to ensure that councillors had all the evidence and flexibility to make a final decision. This was conceded by the Conservative councillors.

Full statement.

Option 3 – Tories taken to task over Capita!

Tory councillors, forced to review their outsourcing arrangements with failling privateers Capita due the scale of the disaster, walked away with their tales between their legs after a mauling at town hall Resources Committee. Barnet Alliance for Public Services activists and Labour councillors, who held a lively rally outside before the meeting. By the end, the Conservatives had been forced to carry out a fully analysis of the costs and possibilities of kicking out Capita all together.

In the meeting itself, the Tories were virtually lost for words, as they have reneged on almost everything they had said in the local elections in May. After pledging to maintain low council tax, they are now looking to make the largest tax rises allowed in law. When it was pointed out that they had frozen council taxes for years, and that council officers’ reports had shown that funding was in trouble months ago. they responded by pathetically appealing to the Labour group and residents not to “hark on about the past” and then trying to blame the economic policies of Gorden Brown in the same breath!

The preferred solution for this crisis-ridden administration was to do a partial reversion of services back t public control, which would have left Capita with those elements of services that are mostly profitable to them. By the end of the meeting, they were forced to conceed that no option for in-sourcing should be off the table in order to save our borough. This a massive step forward for our movement!

See a good report on the meeting in the Barnet Times here.

RALLY! Tories Out Now – Time for a Corbyn Government for the Many not the Few


On the evening of Friday July 27 please join us, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Richard Burgon, Marsha De Cordova, Maya Goodfellow, Sean McGovern (Unite Disabled Members Committee,) and other special guests to loudly say this failing and chaotic Tory government has to go!

Please also help us spread the word the rally by RSVPing, sharing and inviting friends on Facebook here.

This rally will open the Arise festival and takes place at Student Central, Malet St, London WC1E 7HY from 7.00pm (registration 6.30pm.) Please note that if you already have a weekend ticket, you are automatically registered for the rally. We hope you can join us at the rally and if possible at all of Arise for a weekend of people powered politics, internationalism and solidarity.

You can get your tickets for the rally only, the whole Arise event or the Saturday only here.

More Reasons to #kickoutcapita

From the Barnet Eye:

“Last night, the Barnet Eye, along with fellow bloggers Mr Reasonable and Mrs Angry attended the Audit committee meeting at Hendon Town Hall. The meeting was scheduled to discuss the annual audit of the Council business. It was a long meeting. The Audit committee is a rather dry committee and reviews of the Council accounts are serious matters. This was reflected by the number of questions submitted by members of the public (The full set of papers and an audio recording are available here).”

“The auditor spelled out that the problem was fairly and squarely down to Capita. The auditor also spelled out that there would be additional costs associated with the extra work caused by the latest issues with Capita. This is not the first time that Capita have caused audits to be late. Capita have been virtually running the council for five years. They were brought in to save money and to give better service. As Mr Reasonable discovered, they don’t save money and as the auditors have revealed, the service is worse. The council has no control of it’s own business.”

Meanwhile, further shocking news on Capita’s failings at schools:

“Capita has admitted a bug in an information management system used by 21,000 UK schools could have incorrectly linked contact details to the wrong pupils – an incident with huge implications for pupils’ data protection.”

“The error, which has been pinned on a December 2017 upgrade to the Schools Information Management System, could have resulted in schools sending out information about pupils to the wrong address.”

Kids visit DCMS demanding library access rights

Over 30,000 children in Barnet can no longer use their library service due to cuts and obstacles prohibiting reasonable access. They want to participate in the Summer Reading Challenge but Barnet’s cuts make it nearly impossible and last year Barnet’s participation dropped 63% because kids can’t get into libraries. The new Secretary of State, Jeremy Wright QC has the power to change this. Barnet’s children and supporters are gathering to ask he read the Libraries & Museums Act (1964) and use his powers to enforce their rights. The children warmly invite him to come to Barnet and see the impact library exclusion is having on them.

Link here.

Barnet Unison: Barnet Group to begin privatizing services at the same time cutting wages and terms and conditions of staff

Barnet UNISON is currently in negotiations with The Barnet Group in relation to the recommendations below.

Needless to say, Barnet UNISON is opposed to cuts to this vital front line service and opposed to the night operator service being outsourced.

The proposed recommendation to move to bench marked salaries would have grave implications for ALL Barnet Group staff irrespective of whether they are employed on a traditional Barnet Homes contract, which is protected by the 2006 TUPE agreement from LBB, or, a TBG Flex contract.

If Barnet Group Management continue with the intention to break with the current nationally agreed pay structure in the Barnet Homes and the TBG Flex paystructure, Barnet UNISON will be left with no alternative other than consult with ALL employees that would potentially be effected.

It is fully acknowledged that Assist is an essential and greatly valued service and the focus will be on how the service is supported to grow. However, the current cost base does not support the services ability to bid for new business and cannot continue to be provided in its existing form if the growth aspirations are to be achieved.

The proposed changes are not made to cut costs just to make the numbers balance, but are made to modernise the service. The result of the changes are lower costs as we plan to combine our call centre functions and tender the current night operators service. Jobs will be offered in the call centre where they are available but they will be different.

The measures that need to be taken if Assist is to continue to provide an operator and mobile response service to its current customers and to win additional services to support the growth imperative are stated below.

There have been 4 different options that have been consulted on with the Assist staff and following feedback the following is recommended.

  • The Assist service provides a limited operator service during office hours and buys in the out of hours call monitoring.
  • All Assist daytime operators, mobile response officers, management and admin teams will be matched to the bench marked high rate salaries, aligned to NJC Outer London Spinal points.
  • Enhancements and shift allowances will no longer be paid.
  • 3 full time equivalent operator posts (125 hours) will be co-located to work within the contact centre carrying out the same duties as they currently do, during office hours (8am-6pm), this option will add another facet to the Barnet Homes Call Centre further supporting the diversity of work that this service area carries.
  • The current night operators will be consulted with and will either be TUPE’d to the procured provider, be redeployed within The Barnet Group, or be made redundant.
  • Where the impact of the changes to individual’s salaries and contractual obligations are impacted negatively by -10% (gross) or higher they will be offered redeployment or redundancy if a suitable alternative cannot be found.
  • All mobile response officer (MRO) work patterns will be reviewed to ensure that there is full cover for the service and capacity for growth.
  • There will be a reduction of one senior post.
  • The standby rate will remain at £26.76, this will be cost neutral for the Barnet MRO’s and an increase for the Brent MRO’s.
  • Removal of the car allowance with all mileage paid at 60p per mile.

Report from A New Lucas Plan Workshop

Attendees at the Trades Council conference workshop hosted by The New Lucas Plan group heard introductions from John Routley former Lucas Shop Stewards Combine and Steve Schofield researcher for Lessnet (The Local Economic Sustainability and Security Network) and author of Oceans of Work: Arms Conversion revisited. Discussion centred on the original Lucas plan and its relevance for today. By the end there was agreement that with long term planning and investment, particularly in High-Tec growth areas like wind and marine energy, the creation of alternative, sustainable, socially-useful, high skill, high value employment was possible and desirable but only achievable by a Government prepared to invest time, money, with sustained political will and a Labour Leadership that reflects our values-as we now have!

However, success was only possible if there was engagement with defence workers and their Unions and representatives at the very start and heart of the process. They are the ones to identify their needs, capacity and to initiate ideas for the drawing up of practical arms conversion plans whilst protecting skilled employment and pay levels, in the same way that Lucas Aerospace workers did over 40 years ago. It was felt given the sensitivities around this issue Trades Union Council’s, based in their local communities, were well placed to initiate, and develop those discussions locally.

You can see John and Steve’s introductory workshop speeches on https://www.facebook.com/greatermanchester.cnd/videos/804404266416772/.

Following on the film THE PLAN – that came from the bottom up tells the story of those pioneering Lucas workers and the ideas that were the motivation for the Arms Conversion/Defence Diversification motion passed at the TUC Congress in 2017.

Frances O’Grady has written this about the film “Throughout the union movement’s 150-year history, our cause has been to make working lives better. But there are times when we have gone further, we have challenged the very nature and the purpose of the work that we do. The Lucas Plan was created during one of those times. It holds out hope that production can be transformed to create a fairer, greener world. And it is testimony to the wealth of genius to be found on the shop floor. This will be a must-see film for every trade unionist – please support it.”. You can do so by donating through crowdfunding using this link https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-plan-community/x/11054043#/ or get more information via http://www.theplandocumentary.com

Of course, a key means in developing any industrial strategy would be the National Investment Bank proposed by John McDonell who has stated that such a bank could support the development of diversification plans in the local economies of areas heavily dependent on the defence industry, in consultation with local Unions and businesses.

In addition, a shadow Defence Diversification agency would also help deliver a future Labour Government’s goals of an ethical foreign policy and secure sustainable jobs, guaranteeing as Jeremy Corbyn said in his 2015 Labour Leadership statement “A just transition for communities whose livelihoods are based in those defence sectors, so that engineering and scientific skills are not lost but transferred into more socially productive industries”.

Building on from the workshop there are a few public meetings taking place on Defence diversification/arms conversion-Labour CND AGM; Parliamentary launch of Nuclear Education Trust report; Labour CND fringe at Unite conference; Yorkshire CND meeting with Fabian Hamilton.

You can continue discussion with both Steve Schofield on steveschofield@phonecoop.coop

And John Routley through john.routley@hotmail.co.uk

Thanks Moz Greenshields workshop chair

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