Friday, 14 September 2012

An injury to one is an injury to all

Following Brian Coleman's outburst at Tuesday night's council meeting, the Chair of the Barnet Council Unison branch has written this letter to members. It is worth bearing in mind, Barnet Conservatives, that one of the favourite sayings of the trade union movement is "an injury to one is an injury to all".
It is unprecedented for a Councillor to name a Council Officer (an employee of the Council) in a disparaging way in public. Why? Because a Council officer has no public right of reply. So when the employee being attacked is the branch secretary of the biggest Council union, namely our John Burgess, it is particularly offensive. The same Councillor uses sexist, denigrating language to people sitting in the public gallery.  
“Ah, but that’s Brian Coleman for you,” I hear you say, “The Councillor who just lost his GLA seat and seat on the Cabinet”. I do not much care for speculation about whether he was there to provoke or not etc. I do know this: He was asked/allowed to make a key speech for the ruling Conservative Group on a key issue facing our workforce – the One Barnet Programme. That group and the leader of that group allowed him to be their public face. Rightly or wrongly he was chosen.  
During the whole debate (and I was there throughout) Cllr Coleman made no apology. His leader, Cllr Cornelius, did not distance himself from the comments made by Cllr Coleman or insist on an apology, instead he smiles and nods approvingly. The Mayor does not choose to make any kind of statement regarding conduct expected from Councillors serving in public office but only addresses his comments to members of the public, many of them women incensed at having been insulted, nor does he choose to remind Councillors about protocols around naming employees of the Council. Cllr Harper (portfolio for Children’s Services) is clearly seen smiling when his colleague uses sexist language to residents of Barnet. What does this say about our Council’s ability to conduct Equality Impact Assessments?  
I hope you would agree with me that we think our Branch Secretary should continue writing emails on behalf of our members to the Councillors. If they think this is “increasingly desperate”, that is their problem.  
We elect our Branch Secretary precisely to represent us, amongst other things by telling the Council when we think they have got it wrong. The fact the leading Conservative Group refuses to debate with us (and we have offered many, many times over) on the detail of the One Barnet Programme, but can only resort to name calling is a critical sign of weakness in their case. Nonetheless they think they can get away with it. We must show them otherwise.  
Listen to the speech, listen to the way the Councillors express their views via Cllr Brian Coleman about you as a workforce. They just do not care about you. Now what was that about Barnet’s Values...? Who do you stand by? Come to branch meeting 25th September.
Councillor Coleman One Barnet speech
Bite size clips of the above speech
· Councillor Coleman attacks Barnet Alliance residents in public gallery
· Councillor Coleman calls residents old hags
· Councillor Coleman says staff don't matter
·  Councillor Coleman attacks staff and UNISON Branch Secretary
· Councillor Coleman and Leader share private joke

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