Bromley Council - Unite Campaign News





Bromley Unite is leading the campaign in opposition to the decimation of services in the borough. The Tory Council has a privatisation agenda that will lead to it becoming a "commissioning" borough. This will mean it no longer provides services - instead it will manage contracts. It also aims to reduce staffing from 3000 staff to 300! The campaign in Bromley is therefore a major priority for Unite as it will clearly have major consequences elsewhere.

This page will keep supporters regularly updated on the situation in the borough, the services facing privatisation and most importantly the campaign to defend jobs and services.


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News update

Bromley council’s plan to run-down and break-up local libraries falls apart

Unite, Britain’s biggest union, has won a significant victory in Bromley against the fragmentation of the borough’s library service.

The proposal from the council to turn 8 community libraries into volunteer outfits, effectively killing them off as properly resourced libraries, has been thrown into disarray.

A letter dated 6 September seen by Unite from Colin Brand, assistant director of environment and community services, states Bromley Community Link the preferred bidder for the volunteer library contract has now decided to “withdraw from the tender process and will take no further part .” Over the last year there has been a sustained campaign by workers and residents against the closures and other cuts to services across the borough, including a series of strikes and well supported demonstrations.

The council intended to use volunteers instead of paid, professional staff. Replacing paid professional and support roles with volunteers or untrained posts to save money would have threatened the service.

Now the fight is on to keep Bromley’s libraries in public hands but library workers will be able to campaign as a single united force rather than a fragmented one.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Bromley council’s plans to break-up and run-down a key public service is in disarray. Now the fight is on to keep Bromley’s libraries in public hands but library workers will be able to campaign as a single united force rather than a fragmented one.

“Workers have been fighting against the cuts and the privatisation since April last year. Many council workers have taken over 30 days of strike action in this long campaign. It’s a testament to their determination.

“A new community group called Backing Bromley has also grown to fight Bromley council and make the Tory run council answer for its many failings. Thousands of residents have shown their support. The workforce, and the people of Bromley are not going to give up the fight to stop the cuts and privatisation.”

ENDS

For further information please call Ciaran Naidoo 07768 931 315

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org

Notes to editors

• Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

Bromley council ‘in dock’ over alleged victimisation of Unite branch secretary

A long-standing Unite branch secretary has been subject to an alleged sustained campaign of bullying and discrimination by Conservative-controlled Bromley council, says Unite, the country’s largest union.

Papers were served on the council today (Thursday 31 March) by Unite legal services’ panel solicitors Thompsons to answer the case that grandmother Kath Smith, branch secretary since 2011, was subject to concerted victimisation as she tried to carry out her legitimate trade union activities, while the authority embarked on a mass privatisation campaign.

The employment tribunal to hear the case is expected in the summer.

The case centres on:


1. Acts of ongoing trade union victimisation. Examples include refusing Ms Smith the right to stand at departmental elections - something she has done since the role was introduced a decade ago


2. Repeated refusals for the right to time off in lieu when she is required to represent members on non-working days; failure to fix her phone and computer so as to prevent her from contacting/assisting members


3. Breach of the right to take reasonable paid time-off to carry out trade union duties and training in aspects of industrial relations – this has happened on numerous occasions since the council removed full time trade union facility time in June 2015 on the basis of alleged cost saving, despite Unite offering to pay for this


4. Breach of the right to take reasonable unpaid time-off to carry out trade union activities – again on numerous occasions since facility time was removed.


Unite said that these allegations have to be seen in the context that the council is fully committed to becoming a commissioning council and reducing the number of council employees from 4,000 to 300 – despite having £320 million in reserves.

The council’s latest target is the privatisation of 14 libraries, replacing staff with unpaid volunteers in six libraries and handing eight to a private company - the council is refusing to name the bidders for this contract.

The volunteers are being organised by Community Links Bromley and Unite activists will be staging the latest protest outside the company’s headquarters at Community House, South Street, Bromley BR1 1RH tomorrow (Friday 1 April) between 09.30 - 10.30.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “What we are witnessing is a sustained campaign of victimisation against Kath Smith, who has worked for the library service since 1997, for her legitimate trade union activities.

“We believe that Kath has been singled out because of her brave stance against the council’s mass privatisation campaign which has already seen the parks service being outsourced. Libraries are next on the ‘hit’ list.

“Unite is strongly committed, not only to defending our branch secretary, but our members working for the council and, more widely, the much-valued public services that the people of Bromley rely on.

“We know that Community Links Bromley is working with the council to introduce volunteers at libraries. This has elicited a harsh response from the council – including attacks on our branch secretary. The protests will now be developed to be bigger and even more effective – for instance, we will look at publicity stunts like authors doing outdoor book readings.

“We also intend to contact the not for profit organisations affiliated to the company in question and prepare protests outside their buildings too. Further dates will be set for industrial action to coincide with the protests.”

Unite legal officer Nicky Marcus said: “Unite legal services will do all that has to be done to support Kath and to prevent victimisation of our representatives.

“All of our members, but most particularly our representatives should understand the level of support that Unite legal services will offer when our members and representatives come under attack for carrying out their normal trade union activities.”

What is happening in Bromley comes against the backdrop of a Fair Deal For Local Government campaign by Unite’s London and Eastern region which has almost 300,000 members. The campaign is aimed against privatisation and austerity in local government.

The campaign is a set of proposals that Unite is putting to councils in the region. It is a procurement strategy to ensure that quality services are maintained and that there is no ‘race to the bottom’ for pay and conditions post any transfer.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite regional officer Onay Kasab on 07771 818637 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org

Unite legal services acts for over 20,000 members a year and recovered over £160 million in damages last year. Unite legal services have taken the most high profile of employment cases over the last 12 months, regularly supporting representatives victimised in the workplace.

Unite legal services recently won the holiday pay case allowing workers to receive their normal pay in their times of rest, this win alone was worth tens of millions in compensation for Unite members.

The main points of Fair Deal For Local Government campaign can be found on the campaign website http://uniteforpublicservices.org/

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

PEOPLE AND SERVICES FIRST! MARCH TO SAVE OUR SERVICES!
13th June
Assemble 12 noon, Norman Park, Bromley Common, BR2

Services in Bromley are under threat. private companies are preparing to take

over all council services. Care for vulnerable adults, libraries and parks services

are under immediate threat.

These are our services – we have to act now to save them!

If you care about libraries, if you want to make sure vulnerable and disabled

members of the community receive services, if you think that care levels and

public services should not be based on profit but based instead on genuine need

– then come to the march and send the clear message to bromley council:

PEOPLE AND SERVICES FIRST!

WHY WE ARE MARCHING

Public services in Bromley are under immediate threat. Members of the Unite trade union are

involved in a campaign of strike action in opposition to the Council privatising every service it

legally can. But this campaign is not just about the trade union – it is also about the residents

of Bromley. The Council has decided it no longer wishes to directly provide services. Instead, it

wants to become what is called a “commissioning” borough. This means that services such as

care for the vulnerable, children, the disabled, library services and parks will no longer be

public services provided on the basis of need – but will instead be dependent on how much

profit a private company can make. We think this is wrong. So do many people in Bromley.

MARCHING AND DEMANDING PUBLIC SERVICES

The Council launched an appallingly flawed consultation exercise into its proposals for the

Library Service. Scandalously, unless participants agreed that the service should either be

handed to a private company or be run by unpaid volunteers replacing paid, professional

staff, they were not allowed to complete the on-line consultation process. Unite therefore

launched our own consultation exercise. We organised stalls across the borough and

launched a genuine public debate. We had over a thousand responses – every response

opposed the Councils plans.

PRIVTISATION DOES NOT WORK!

Privatisation threatens the quality and quantity of public services, reduces accountability,

threatens continuity and actually costs more money! The company taking over the remainder

of the Parks service has already said that after the transfer, they will cut staff numbers – and

the Council will pay the redundancy money for the private company. In a public statement

opposing the Councils proposals, Bromley Labour Councillors have stated that private companies

Capita and Liberata who have contracts in Bromley have missed numerous performance

targets and are struggling to do what they are contracted to do, that people have been

evicted from their homes and forced to sleep on the streets because benefits have not been

correctly processed and that roads and pathways are not being cleaned as they should be.

They also state that one of the contractors in Bromley has been exploiting migrant labour.

THERE IS ANOTHER WAY – PEOPLE AND SERVICES FIRST!

Bromley Council has £300 million available to it in assets and reserves. Yet it chooses to

make cuts and privatise services. The Council has admitted that it uses its money to engage

in property speculation. We think that instead of playing at being property speculators, the

Council should be doing what it is there for – providing public services. That is why we are

marching today. Services do not have to be privatised. The Council, when consulting on the

Library proposals, told the trade unions that if there is massive public opposition, they would

think again. This has to be the case with every service. Let’s make sure they get the message.

March with us to save public services.

www.unitetheunion.org

For further information, contact

onay.kasab@unitetheunion or call on 0771 818637.

Bromley Unite members took two days of strike action on 7th and 8th April against the Councils mass privatisation programme. Members took to the picket line and were supported by Bromley Trade Council, Unite Community and Labour Party members. The following Saturday Bromley campaigners were out again, this time campaigning against UKIP



"Labour Councillors in Bromley 'All Out' against Privatisation!"

Bromley Labour Group response to UNITE strike action.



Labour Councillors in Bromley are supporting the strike action to be taken by UNITE on Tuesday 7 and Wednesday 8 April 2015.

Speaking on behalf of the Labour Group, Cllr Angela Wilkins (Leader of the Opposition) said:

"We support this action for a number of reasons:

Tories in Bromley are openly committed to being a 'commissioning council' and to reducing the number of council employees from 4,000 to 300. For them this is not about delivering the best levels of service for Bromley residents, it is a purely political and ideological commitment to privatisation.

Since the days of Margaret Thatcher, Tories have always promoted the private sector over the public sector, and they have always tried to destroy trades unions, so this situation is no surprise. It is, however, extremely worrying because the lives and welfare of local people are at risk.

The reality of privatisation is that contractors have to keep their prices low to win the contract in the first place. They then struggle to deliver the contract specification and to make a profit for their shareholders. Experienced staff are replaced by others on lower wages. Key performance indicators are not met because these lower-paid staff are not suitably qualified or are not properly trained. Service levels deteriorate. The public suffers whilst the shareholders get richer.

During the last year In Bromley, Capita and Liberata have missed numerous performance targets and are struggling to do what they are contracted to do for the contract price. People have been evicted from their homes and forced to sleep on the streets because the benefits to which they are entitled have not been correctly processed. Another contractor has been found to be employing illegal immigrants. Many of our roads and pathways are not being cleaned as they should be.

Councillors are supposed to scrutinise contracts and whether they are being properly fulfilled. Yet many of the reports that go to Bromley's committees are written by the contractors themselves and contain highly complex information so it is hard to see the truth beneath the technical terminology. We just don't think this system is working in the interests of the public.

Bromley Tories argue that they don't always choose the cheapest contract. But one contractor who was rejected by Bromley Tories on grounds of quality of service then bought out and took over the company that did win the contract. This is what happens in the private sector where money matters most.

Labour councillors believe that proposals to change the arrangements for union officers to represent their members are based on political prejudice not common sense and that this could end up costing the council more. We also believe that UNITE's proposals for a procurement strategy deserved proper consideration and not instant dismissal.

We are also shocked because legally it is the councillors who employ council staff, and councillors have not been told by officers that this strike is taking place."


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