Workers facing outsourcing from London borough of Barnet council will strike on Wednesday 7 October.
The dispute involves social workers, coach escorts, drivers, occupational therapists, schools catering staff, education welfare officers, library workers, children centre workers, street cleaning and refuse workers, all of whom face outsourcing under Barnet's “easycouncil” model which will see the number of directly employed staff fall to less than 300.
Barnet's plans mean council budgets will be cut 40% by 2020. As well as the services already planned to be outsourced, Barnet announced last week that the Meals on Wheels service will cease on 1 April 2016
On 2 October the council will publish a report into the future of the Library service, it is expected this report will seek to reduce the staff budget by 68%. Such cuts will devastate a library service which has already faced several rounds of cuts in the last five years.
Barnet council has already privatised social care for adults with disabilities, housing options, parking services, revenues and benefits, IT services, HR and payroll, pensions, health and safety, finance, estates, property services, procurement service, environmental health, planning, building control, Hendon cemetery and crematorium, highways services, trading standards and licensing, legal services, registrars and nationality services, CCTV, the music trust, public health and mortuary services.
They now seek to privatise early years children's centres, library services, adults and community services, street scene services, education and skills, and school meals.
Barnet council has branded this final phase as becoming the “Commissioning Council” — they aim to become the first council to solely function to commission privatised services.
Unison Branch Secretary John Burgess said: “Our members want to work for the Council, they want to be directly accountable to the residents of Barnet. Our members don’t want to work for an employer which will have to place the shareholders’ legal demands before local residents’ needs. Our members don’t want to work for an employer which uses zero hours contracts. Our members don’t want to work for an employer which will not pay the London Living Wage as a basic minimum. Our members don’t want to work for an employer which won’t allow their colleagues to belong to their Pension Scheme, and our members don’t want to work for an employer which will take jobs out of the borough.”
Workers will be on picket lines at Barnet House from 7am, Mill Hill Depit from 6am, and East Finchley Library from 9am.
A rally will be held outside Barnet House at 12pm and all are encouraged to attend and show support.
• Messages of solidarity to Barnet Unison
100 days on strike
Strikers at the National Gallery, London, will mark 100 days on strike on Thursday 24 September by releasing 100 balloons in Trafalgar Square.
The event will form part of a day of action against the privatisation of gallery services, and in support of strikers, and will involve a rally in Trafalgar Square at 1 pm.
On Friday 2 October at 5.30pm National Gallery strikers will host a “poetry on the picket line” event, with poets performing on the picket line in support of the strike.
PCS has now secured talks with the new gallery director and hopes to make progress, but pressure will need to be kept up to make the gallery back down on privatisation.
Win on pay in Bromley
Refuse workers in the London borough of Bromley have secured an increased pay offer after strikes.
Members of Unite struck for three days on 24 August and 3 and 4 September over a 1% pay offer from contractor Veolia. Following talks this has been upped to 2%, backdated to April 2015, which has been accepted by the workers. Unite says they also gained significant increases in sick pay.
Unite national officer for local government Fiona Farmer said: “It is ‘a smell the coffee’ moment for those outsourcing companies which view local government contracts as a massive money-spinner at the expense of those that actually do the work on behalf of the local communities.”
Refuse services in Bromley were outsourced as part of Bromley's plans to become a “commissioning council” in a similar way to Barnet.
Privatisation is continuing with parks services recently privatised and other services due to be sold off soon.
Tube talks continue
Talks between Tube unions and London Underground bosses are ongoing, as disputes over rostering, staffing levels, pay, and other issues continue.
Strikes in July and August forced a series of concessions from the company, including a commitment that station staff recently recruited on fixed-term contracts will be retained permanently, and a promise that new rosters will retain existing levels of weekends off for most staff. However, activists are urging unions to tell the company that the clock is ticking. Rank-and-file bulletin Tubeworker said: “No-one wants talks to plod along indefinitely. If LU appears unlikely to concede much more than it has currently, we need to either give up, or step up. We believe we should do the latter!”
• For regular updates, see the Tubeworker blog