“Unsafe & Unsustainable”- Barnet UNISON speech to Barnet Councillors

barnet-unison-logo-e1462368170626The following speech was delivered to General Functions Committee,
on Tuesday 6th December at 7pm in Hendon Town Hall

“Dear members of the committee

I addressing you as both the branch secretary of Barnet UNISON, but also speaking as a service user of mental health services, indeed without the support I was given and the ongoing support I still receive today there is a strong likelihood I may not of been speaking to you this eveningjohn-t-shirt

It is also worth noting much quoted statistic that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

I therefore speak not only as a worker but from personal experience of using mental health services.

I also want to make this point that I believe is often missed by elected members. I speaking to you all as employers not politicians. It is as an employer I am wanting to address our members, your staff concerns about the proposal before the committee this evening.

Firstly, I can confirm we are not opposed to the staff being brought back into the Council and we are fully supportive of the proposed social care model of intervention.

However when travelling across the borough it is impossible not to see the number of housing developments; and with it the increase in population; and with that the increased need for schools, NHS provision, social services to name but a few public services.

It is therefore highly dangerous to be proposing to cut Mental Health services at a time when the population is growing.

It is our view that the proposed cut of mental health social workers coupled with the increase in responsibilities will NOT lead to a safer service for service users, families and carers.

Barnet UNISON is extremely concerned about the reduction of social workers and the introduction of Assessment Enablement Officers (AEO).

In mental health staff are working with extremely complex and high risk individuals in situations where you need qualified experienced and knowledgeable staff.

Currently mental health social workers have significantly high caseloads (which includes the work connected to their statutory responsibilities in their Approved Mental Health Practitioner roles.

The cut in social workers will lead to greater pressure upon an already pressured staff group increasing the risk of more Serious Untoward Incidents (SUI) happening.

You will no doubt have been briefed that the Council is not making any social workers redundant, which is true; and you will have been told that the new proposal to replace qualified social workers with AEO’s will provide a better service.

With respect this premise is nonsense.

The proposal to cut mental health social workers is directly driven by NEED.

However, not by the NEEDS of service users and carers, but by the NEED to make Austerity cuts.

Lessons learnt

I would like to remind the committee that it was only two years ago when I addressed this same committee about the now infamous Family Services restructure. At that meeting I tried to convince members of the committee to extend the period of consultation as I was concerned the changes had been driven through in haste and that I feared there would be consequences for the service and the staff.  Unfortunately the committee chose accept the advice of senior officers who are now no longer working for the council. However I can report that the restructure had to be revisited as I predicted, there was a high turnover of experienced social work staff which then resulted in the recruitment crisis you now have in children’s social work.

 

Sometimes it is worth listening to UNISON.

 

We’ve been here before 18th February this year, Adults brought a similar proposal to cut social work posts, and use non-professionally qualified workers.

My members, your staff, describe feeling they are “flying by the seat of their pants”

The rationale put before this committee for cutting social work posts was that new Capita IT database “Mozaic” would deliver efficiencies. Well 10 months later this is not happening because “Mozaic”, once again has been pulled. There have been so many false starts with Mozaic if they had been a sprinter they’d have been disqualified from the Olympics by now.

 

Consultancy spend

I want members to take a look at agency/consultants spend.

Last year the council spent £18.2 million on agency/consultants. This figure is larger than the year before which was £17.9 million, which was significantly larger than the previous year which was £15.5million, which was previously larger than the previous year £13.7million which was previously larger than the previous year £12.5million.

In the last two quarters of this year the Council has already spent £13.7 million on agency/consultants which if the current pattern continues could see the Council break £20million.

It is our view that the Council needs to address this agency/consultancy uncontrollable spend in order to protect vital front line services and in this case drop the proposal to cut social work posts.

 

John Burgess

Branch Secretary

Barnet UNISON

Report on Transport Access Issues from SERTUC Disabled Workers Network

tuc_logoReport on Transport Access Issues from SERTUC Disabled Workers Network for 1 Dec 2016 SERTUC Transport Industries Network (To be taken forward as ongoing for future meetings)

Ticket Office Closures
The closure of ticket offices restricts access to tube travel and mainline rail travel for disabled people. Those who are partially sighted and have learning difficulties. Have great difficulty or are unable to use automatic ticket machines.
Cuts in Outer urban and rural bus routes
Cuts in outer urban and rural bus routes both in terms of the areas that they cover and their frequency. This restricts the ability of disabled people to get around and lead an active life. Also of course not only impact on disabled people. Also families and individuals that don’t own or have access to a car. Also people that give up driving due to ill health and old age.

No lift access to stations
On tube and mainline so many stations don’t have lift access. Meaning that the disabled and the infirm are unable to use these stations. On the tube it also restricts access to those who have a fear of escalators.
Unstaffed stations
There is no assistance for people who need help to get on trains. Especially at stations where there is a wide platform gap.
Large Platform gaps
These restrict the access to disabled people on the tube and more so on mainline trains. Clapham junction is an instance. Also Wembley on tube I believe were a low height tube train uses a high level mainline platform.
Unstaffed Stations
When stations are unstaffed they do feel unsafe. Not only concern for disabled people. Also for women travelling later at night. Or of course anyone with a fear and concern about using an unstaffed station.

Unclear station announcements for partially sighted people
Partially sighted people can often find that station announcements are unclear. There is limited staff on a station for them to go to for help on which train and platform that they need.
The need to book in advance if you need assistance to travel
The need to book in advance if you need assistance to travel. Is a restriction and limitation on the access for disabled people to mainline rail especially. You are not able to suddenly decide you would like to make a journey.
Automatic Rottweiler barriers
The narrow automatic Rottweiler barriers are a restriction to travel for disabled people. There are very few wide gates on most tube and mainline stations. For mainline stations Kings Cross is a prime example of this. It was rebuilt with a sea of automatic Rottweiler barriers.

Bus routes using legislation to use buses with no disabled access
There is legislation that as I understand it. Allows bus companies to continue using buses with no disabled access. To extend the life of older buses to reduce operating costs. As well as probably franchising costs for councils. Giving them a cheaper franchise cost on marginal bus routes.
Maritime Transport
Not overlooked at all here. Respect that the SERTUC Transport Industries Network and NAUTILUS do take forward any issues and concerns about maritime transport. That are raised by the SERTUC Disabled workers Network.

TSSA says re-open ticket offices after Travelwatch report published

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Responding to the publication of Travelwatch’s Review into the impact of the ticket office closure programme on the Tube.

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said:

“We welcome the urgency which with London Mayor, Sadiq Khan wants to tackle the serious shortcomings identified in TravelWatch’s report. The truth is that Boris Johnson’s ill-conceived and badly executed ticket office closure programme has created many problems for passengers and for our members. Put simply, there is not enough staff on our Tube. We hope that TfL now address this without further delay.

“This report rightly highlights London’s passengers have been severely short changed by Boris Johnson’s culling of tstaff numbers on our Tube. Customer service has been thrown out of the window and the safety of passengers and staff alike has been severely compromised. We completely agree with TravelWatch’s conclusion that there must be a consistently visible staff presence in stations They also say that to do this, London Underground (LU) must introduce a focal point in every station where passengers know that staff can be located. We use to have this, it was called a Ticket Office. It’s time now for LU to reverse Boris’s short sighted and damaging closure programme and reopen the ticket offices!”

London memorial for Fidel Castro

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Congress Centre, London

Monday, 5 December 2016, 6:00pm

London memorial for Fidel Castro

Monday 5 December, 6pm – 8pm, Congress Centre, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3LS

Join us for a memorial evening for Fidel Castro, with speakers, music, readings and film. Special guests include the Cuban Ambassador HE Teresita Vicente, writer Tariq Ali, author and journalist Richard Gott and more to be announced.

If you would like to attend please register in advance here: http://www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk/fidel-castro/memorial/

Please note that due to overwhelming demamd, the venue has changed to Congress Centre, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3LS

Stand Up to Racism Trade Union conference 4 February 2017

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The election of Donald Trump in the US and the growth of anti-migrant and Islamophobic scapegoating in Britain and elsewhere have left millions of people fearful of the growth of racism.

Politicians and the media have ramped up the rhetoric against immigration while Theresa May has put the ending of the free movement of labour at the heart of her Brexit strategy.

Stand Up to Racism is organising a conference for those who believe trade unionists have to fight the attempts to divide working class people. We are stronger together, in the fight against austerity and ruthless employers.

We want to:

  • Defend our EU workmates and make sure their rights are maintained after Brexit.
  • Oppose attempts to blame migrants for falling wages and the slashing of our public services.
  • Arm trade union activists with the arguments they need to defeat racist ideas in the workplaces.
  • Build the biggest possible turn out by trade unionists on the Stand Up To Racism demos in London and Glasgow (backed by the TUC) on 18 March 2017.

Join us 12pm on Saturday 4th February for the Stand Up To Racism Trade Union Conference at (Mander Hall) NUT Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD. Facebook event here

Register for conference here:

SUTR model motion to support conference here:

Organising migrant and other insecure workers after the Brexit vote

tuc_logoDate and time of event:
Tue 6 Dec 2016 – 17:30 to 19:00
Venue and town/city: 
Congress House, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3LS
Costs: FREE
About this event:

This event will explore the new insecurities migrant and local workers are experiencing after the Brexit vote and consider how trade unions should respond to combat this insecurity and associated exploitation.

The event will feature examples of work by trade unions and allies in NGOs and community groups to organise insecure workers.  It will discuss how this work can be built on to foster solidarity between migrant and local workers and combat anti-migrant sentiments.

This event is part of the TUC’s Rethinking Organising series. It will also showcase new resources the TUC has developed to support organising insecure workers that include the ‘Working in the UK’ guide to employment rights available in 21 languages (www.tuc.org.uk/workingintheuk).

Speakers

  • Katia Widlak – Organiser, Unison
  • Felicity Lawrence –  Journalist, The Guardian
  • Klara Skrivankova –  Europe Programme and Advocacy Co-ordinator, Antislavery International 
  • Rosa Crawford –  Policy Officer, Trades Union Congress
  • Additional trade union organisers to be confirmed

Registration required, please register here:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/organising-migrant-and-other-insecure-workers-after-the-brexit-vote-tickets-29052155780

Contact for further information:

Further information about the event can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/organising-migrant-and-other-insecure-wor…

People’s Question Time – Brexit: What are our Demands?

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7pm, Thursday 19 January, St Pancras Church, Euston Road, NW1 2BA.

This has been a year full of surprises; the Political landscape is changing at an unprecedented rate. Brexit has been hugely divisive and has created a dynamic and unpredictable situation.

Our new (un-elected) Prime Minster and her cabinet clearly have no real plan. One thing is for sure, if the last 6 years are anything to go by, if the Tories are left to handle Brexit negotiations on their own we’ll see a deal that suits the bankers, the bosses and the corporations. What should we be demanding from the government that means Brexit is negotiated in the interests of the people? However you voted in the EU referendum, we need to put pressure on the Tories to ensure they don’t use Brexit as a way of increasing attacks on the majority, continuing austerity, whipping up racist divisions in our community and scapegoating immigrants.

Book here.

Panel includes:
Emily Thornberry MP – Shadow Foreign Secretary, Labour Party
Amelia Womack – Deputy Leader, Green Party
Kevin Courtney – General Secretary, National Union of Teachers
Lindsey German – People’s Assembly
Steve Turner – Assistant General Secretary, UNITE
(more tbc)

Do you have a question for our panel? Submit one when registering for a chance to put it to the event.

Check out the Facebook Event and invite your friends!

Any questions about the event or for the People’s Question Time, please contact: office@thepeoplesassembly.org.uk
Google map and directions

Ideas whose time have come: report on the excellent Lucas Plan conference

On Saturday the 26th of November, Birmingham was host to “The Lucas Plan – An Idea Whose Time has Come?” and I think it was easily one of the best labour movement conferences held this year. It used the 40 year anniversary of the release of the seminal document as the basis for a wide ranging discussion about the work, technology and social and environmental justice. It is a rare achievement to so perfectly unite the labour, peace and ecological movements.

The conference was opened with a short introductory film, The Plan, and then an address from Phil Asquith, one of Lucas Aerospace trades unionists who, in response to the threat of job losses and following an intense discujobsnotbombsssion about progressive alternatives with Tony Benn (then Minister for Industry in the Labour government) helped to create detailed proposals for diversifying the use of high technology away from destructive military purposes toward making products that could actually make the world a better place and be socially useful.

Aside from generating excitement and debate amongst progressive people across world, Phil emphasised that the plan was successful in two very important ways. The first of these is that the plan, in the short term, did enable the workers to stave off compulsory redundancies (obviously the original point). The second, longer term achievement is that many of the radical designs and inventions that the workers’ proposed, Phil cited hybrid engines as a really good example, have since been industrially realised. The conference opened up the possibility that it might make a third contribution: it’s spirit of using the talents and creativity of workers’ exercising control over to produce for social and environmental gain, rather than private profit, could help diversify technology away from the carbon economy and create an economy that could fight the menace of climate change.

Following the opening session, there were three rounds of workshop sessions, with four choices of workshop in each. It is a credit to the quality of the meetings that the Breaking the Frame collective had organised that I and most of the other people I spoke on the day where experiencing genuine dilemmas trying to decide which ones to go to! Myself I went to:

  1. A meeting by a councillor in the Isle of Wight and an organiser with London-based community organising group on how to draw up policy proposals for green jobs and sustainable housing.
  2. An introduction to the seminal book “Architect or Bee?”, written by Lucas Aerospace workers leader Mike Cooley, laying out some of the deeper political ideas behind and raised by the Lucas Plan.
  3. A discussion about workers and robotic and automation, lead off by an agricultural worker and a logistics worker. Getting these two points of view was an extremely good start on this issue, which is a massive controversy within the movement at the moment,lucas-aerospace-systems-equipment-sticker and I was pleased to hear an very sophisticated discussion from the floor around the issue.

I was unable to go to meetings I would have very much like to hear on topics like arms conversion and the real meaning of socially useful production. I do hope the organisers make recordings of these available online.

The meeting heard addresses from two union deputy general secretaries, Tony Kearns of the CWU and Chris Baugh of the PCS, and two MEPs, Molly Scott Cato of the Greens and Julie Ward from Labour, and it was really good to see them strongly endorsing the ideas of the event. It felt like a real step forward for a specifically left environmentalism and, as one person said near the end of the day, the theme of workers’ control and ran through everything. This was a concept our movement used to hold dear and ought to return to. Tony Kearns probably put it best when he emphasised that we have already seen that the institutions of the top of society – businesses, governments and even the TUC – have already failed to take the steps needed to protect the environment, so we have to be like the Lucas workers and think from the bottom up.

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