Saturday, 6 August 2011

Crack-of-dawn picket-line success in Barnet

I went and supported the Barnet council Unison picket at North London Business Park this morning. They were responding to short notice that the council planned to bring in agency staff today (Saturday 6 August). The task: to work on the backlog in Revenue and Benefits.

The backlog has two sources:
1. the new computer system failing to work properly in the spring

2. the current work-to-rule by permanent staff objecting to being transfered to the private sector as part of the One Barnet (outsourcing) Programme (OBP).
There are around 140 [I initially put 80] staff in Revs and Bens. 53 temps have been working alongside them since the spring; Barnet council is retaining their services, now, probably, mainly to use them to undermine Unison's industrial action.

News of Unison's hastily organised early morning picket had the effect of making the council think twice - or the agency workers themselves. 44 people had signed up to come in and work; in the event, no agency staff came to work and only five permanent staff who have not been supporting the industrial action.

I spoke to a couple of them. They had feeble excuses for letting down their colleagues - and potentially cutting their own throats into the bargain. "I've got a mortgage, and a family to support." Obviously the guy who said that is not unique in this - everyone taking action is in the same boat. The difference is that most people recognise that working in the private sector is likely to mean lower wages, and reduced sickness and holiday pay, and are prepared to resist it.

Such freeloaders do annoy me: they are quite happy to take all the benefits that have been achieved by trade union action over the years, but not to put in any of the effort made to get it.

One of the other scabs - sorry, I have to use the word, it's not nice but that is the word that the English language has found for people who rat on their workmates in this way - said that she respected the people picketing, but...

She doesn't respect them at all! She was sticking two fingers up to them today and deserves the cold shoulder on Monday. I hope she gets it. I'm sorry to sound harsh, but industrial action is not easy and sometimes you have to decide which side you are on. Right now, she is on the side of the privatisers and the union busters.

It felt strange to be witnessing a real picket line in Barnet, but Barnet's pursuit of the easyCouncil holy grail was always likely to lead to this - given the pig-headedness of its bungling Tory administration it was likely to. I don't think it will be the last picket line. Let's hope they are all as successful as this was!


Ros said...

Good on the agency staff for not crossing the picket line. (And, if my experience with agencies is anything to go by, then I expect they would have encouraged their workers to stay away)

Good luck with your action - the privatisation sounds murky, and I can sympathise with computer systems that don't work.

vickim57 said...

Cheers, Ros. Whatever calculations were made by whoever, it's clear the picket made a difference.

(I just visited your blog and you have some great poems!)

David Duff said...

Nothing to say for the council tax payers of Barnet? You know, those people *working* in the private sector for more hours and less money than your public (non) service slackers.

You really must stop using the Nelson trick and try putting the telescope to your good eye!

Mrs Angry said...

oh please Duff: do you really think that private sector workers get paid LESS than their colleagues in the public sector? Where is your evidence for this?

as for scabs: it is possible to win them round, eventually ... when I was a union convenor, I had to put up with one worker who always refused to join the union and was happy to work through strikes: she really used to infuriate me as she was without fail the first person to complain if she thought 'her rights' at work were being compromised in some way. I pointed out to her over and over again that the salary and all the conditions of service that she enjoyed were all hard won by union negotiation, and also suggested when we won a pay rise that she might like to do without it as she held such strong opposition to the unions who had delivered the increase. She saw no problem in taking the money and everything else, of course.

I was absolutely astonished to hear recently that now not only is she a union member, she is the branch rep!

One Barnet has dragged us all into an age of miracles.

Mrs David Duff said...


Stop annoying these young Ladies or I'll tell them where you enjoy putting your telescope

David Duff said...

"1: On any measure, public sector workers are now, on average, better paid than
private sector workers. The median salary in the public sector is 12% higher,
or 30% higher on an hourly basis.
2: This pay advantage is not evenly distributed. It is higher in lower grades, with the
bottom 10% of public sector workers now 25% better paid than their private sector
equivalents. This is a post 1997 phenomenon – theywere 4%lesswell paid in 1997."

And I'm not sure if they factored in the indubitable fact that huge numbers of so-called public employees are grossly unproductive not least because so many of them are engaged in utterly useless occupations - see The Guardian jobs page, passim.

Also, Mrs. 'A', most improvements in workers' conditions have come about because of legislation not because of anything done by the get-rich-quick fat cats who run unions. (See Bob Crowe)

Anonymous said...

As a Barnet Employee I can assure you that I can get a better salary working in Central London. I choose to work in the public sector and work in the Borough I live. When people see Public Sectore on Higher Pay - its the fat cat bosses and contractors who get the big bucks. The average person working here isn't on mega money and has had a 3 yr pay freeze. So sorry to the guy with the DUFF info!

Mrs Angry said...

Duff you need to study the history of the trade union movement, old cock. My grandfather was a miner: if it hadn't been for his union and the Lbour movement, he would have continued working in conditions of virtual slavery, with appalling pay, no holidays, no sick pay - even on the three ocasions when he was seriously injured in accidents at work - and in conditions no human being should be expected to endure. No doubt you would like workers to return to such unregulated employment, and give employers back the right to treat their workers with contempt.