Barnet council Unison is taking industrial action against privatisation of council services, and on Saturdays in August has picketed an attempt to break a work-to-rule in revenues and benefits. The branch is also organising a one-day strike on Tuesday 13 September.
Around 400 staff in planning and regulatory services, and revenues and benefits have for several weeks not been doing overtime and refusing to cooperate with the work being done on privatising their jobs.
Barnet’s Tory administration plans to privatise the bulk of council services under the One Barnet Programme (OBP), this in spite of the fact that the planned savings would be tiny. OBP will disrupt council services and the council is spending a fortune on consultants and overpaid executives expert in “change management”.
Privatisation will mean cuts in pay and conditions of service in order to boost their profits.
The council has already offered three big contracts worth more than £1 billion to the private sector:
• Parking (£25 million)
• Planning, regulatory services and Hendon cemetery (£275 million)
• New Support and Customer Services Organisation (includes revenues and benefits, HR, procurement, finance, IT and a call centre to deal with residents) (£750 million.)
These contracts are for 10 years with the possibility of extending for a further five years. No wonder private companies are heading to Barnet in droves: 100 companies attended a recent NSCSO “market day”, including “big boys” Capita, Serco and BT.
The action in revenues and benefits is beginning to bite. There are around 140 permanent staff, plus 50 agency staff brought in to deal with a backlog caused by problems with a new computer system. The agency staff are now being kept on to deal with the backlog caused by the industrial action. Around 130 Unison members are taking action.
On Saturdays the council has offered overtime to agency and permanent staff. The Unison branch is treating this as an attempt at breaking the industrial action and, with the support of the local anti-cuts group and Barnet trades council, has organised picketing at the council. We have deterred agency workers from going into work. Five or six permanent staff who are not in the union have driven into work. Pickets have managed to stop a few of them and speak to them.
The Unison branch has organised a one-day strike of all members involved in the work-to-rule. On Tuesday 13 September they will start their strike during the day, to encourage maximum participation in picket lines and other activities. In the evening there will be a lobby of the Barnet council meeting, 6pm, Hendon Town Hall, the Burroughs, London NW4 4BG.