Friday, 1 April 2011

No laughing matter: Barnet council cuts

Yesterday Church Farmhouse Museum closed; today children's centres began closing. All victims of the cuts.

Yesterday around 350 Barnet council workers lost their jobs. I venture to suggest that all of these people are good people, the competition at the Jobcentre will be that much fiercer now, and, of course, wages will be depressed in consequence. Those still working for the council will wind up working harder for no extra pay, perhaps for less pay.

I thought I'd publish an extract from the Barnet Unison weekly email to its members. It's fairly lengthy but stick with it, I think it gives you a flavour of what these cuts (and this year's cuts are just the start) mean for council workers.
A sad week

At lot of us have had to say farewell to colleagues as a consequence of the budget cuts. Some are friends and colleagues, I have picked up that the mood around the work place is low and staff are fearful of what is to come.

I think next week it is really going to hit home when staff see empty chairs where their colleagues used to sit.

BUT what next?

I hope that the 'more for less' mantra does not start up again. It has been apparent to me staff carry out an inordinate amount of overtime and in many cases it is unpaid. Often the reason is because staff place great store in being a public servant and the public sector ethos that goes with that.

In the coming weeks I will be arranging for UNISON meetings for members to provide feedback on their workplaces. E.g., how are they coping with the undoubted extra workload as a result of the loss of staff?

Farewell Maggi

Maggi Myland has been a friend and union colleague for more than 14 years. Maggi is one of the casualties of the Budget cuts. Barnet UNISON along with other council services has taken a cut, in our case it works out at more than 50%.

What can I say about Maggi? We are going to miss her terribly, but I think it is our members who will miss her even more. Her caseload is phenomenal and her empathy towards the members who are often in a terrible state of distress is unmatched by any other rep I have met.

The extra hours after work and at the weekend she has put in for members could never be reimbursed, but Maggi would never ask for it, because she belongs to a rare breed. Trade Unionism is in her blood. She is one of those unable to walk away from someone in distress.

Farewell to Return2Learn

It is sad to report that we have had our support for Return2learn (R2L) cut.

The R2L programme was a fantastic programme which enabled hundreds of staff to have a second opportunity to improve their skills and gain confidence to take further training and other qualifications.

The agreement we made with the Council Leader 6 years ago was ground breaking. A lot of councils talked about doing this but in Barnet we did more than talking.

I guess that training opportunities for Barnet staff are going to be harder to access, yet it is in times like this that learning new skills is even more important.

It is strange that in these difficult times a service that provides FREE training for the Council has been unable to escape the axe!
UPDATE A report in the Barnet Press on 8 April gives the job losses at Barnet council as "under 200". (It's probably just under.) The Times series gave the figure of 350 earlier.

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