Barnet members prepare for budget-day strike

Council workers plan 24-hour protest against privatisation

UNISON’s Barnet branch members will be taking strike action on budget day, Wednesday 8 July, as part of their ongoing battle against the rampant privatisation of local council services.

The famously intrepid branch is reaching more than one million social media users with their message.

Their latest industrial action will coincide with chancellor George Osborne’s announcement of £12 billion of welfare cuts, which will hit the low-paid the hardest. His known targets so far include a reduction in the benefit cap and removing subsidies for social housing.

Barnet is suffering the sixth year of the Tory-led council’s privatisation agenda, which has led to the outsourcing of numerous services – including social care for adults with disabilities, housing and parking – with thousands of staff transferred to other employers and many made redundant.

In March this year the authority agreed a new phase of ‘alternative delivery models.’ The services now at risk of outsourcing are:

  • early years – 13 children’s centres;
  • library services;
  • adult & communities services;
  • waste and recycling, street cleaning, parks and transport;
  • education & skills, and school meals services – three multinational contractors are now bidding for a contract worth almost £1bn.

The Barnet branch, which represents over 3,000 members, declared a formal dispute with the council in December 2014.

In it recent ballot, 87% of members working for the council (excluding community schools) voted ‘yes’ to strike action.

Branch secretary John Burgess said: “Our members want to work for the council. They want to be directly accountable to the residents of Barnet.

“They do not want to work for an employer which will have to place the shareholders’ legal demands before local residents’ needs.

“They don’t want to work for an employer which uses zero hours contracts and will not pay the London Living Wage as a basic minimum. They don’t want to work for an employer which won’t allow their colleagues to belong to their pension scheme, and will take jobs out of the borough.”

The 24-hour strike will involve coach escorts, drivers, social workers, occupational therapists, schools catering staff, education welfare officers, library workers, children centre workers, street cleaning & refuse workers.

The branch is using the Thunderclap “crowdspeaking platform” on Twitter and Facebook to spread the message about their strike.

Best-selling leftwing author Owen Jones and Green Party Natalie Bennett are among the supporters.

Barnet have managed to get over half a million reach on their Thunderclap – 317 sign-ups including Owen Jones and Natalie Bennett.

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