Bromley council’s plans to carry out a mass privatisation of services are again being challenged by members of Unite, the country’s largest union, with a fourth wave of strikes starting on Tuesday 7 July.
The following day (Wednesday 8 July), budget day, Unite members will be demonstrating at Parliament Square from 13.00. Unite will be joined by strikers from Barnet Unison who are also on strike that day over accelerating privatisation.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne is expected to announce further swingeing cuts to local authority budgets during the emergency budget.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that councils in England could face a £3.3 billion reduction in central government funding for local services in 2016/17 – and this will mean councils will need to make big savings next year, equivalent to 12 per cent of their total budgets.
Unite members at Bromley’s adult services and transport workers will hold a two day strike starting at 00:01 hours on 7 July and the library staff will stage a three day strike from the same time.
The Conservative-dominated authority is fully committed to becoming a commissioning council and reducing the number of council employees from 4,000 to 300 – despite having £130 million in reserves.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Our campaign has taken to the streets and won massive support from the Bromley community – people do not want their services privatised. Petitions, surveys and the council’s own consultation exercise show this to be the case.
“The recent fantastic march through the borough, involving service users, disabled residents and children sent a very clear message.”
Commenting on the budget day demo, Onay Kasab said: “We invite all those who care about services, the elderly, the disabled, children and our communities to join us.
“The campaign is also fighting a vicious attack by the employer on Unite branch secretary Kathy Smith, who is being attacked for her role in defending services in Bromley.
“Not only is Bromley council doing all it can to stop her carrying out her role as a trade union rep, it has now started victimising Kathy by refusing to grant her leave that she is entitled to and excluding her from workplace meetings. Bromley is now engaged in despicable workplace bullying.”
The council is considering the privatisation of 14 libraries, replacing staff with unpaid volunteers and handing the libraries over to charities.
The remainder of the parks service was transferred to the Landscape Group, which announced that immediately after the transfer on 1 June, it will be making redundancies. Despite this transfer, council taxpayers will be bailing out the Landscape Group by footing the bill for the redundancies.
The council has also agreed to privatise learning disabilities services by handing them to another private company, Certitude which could lead to more job losses.
Unite’s members voted by 87 per cent to take strike action in protest against this mass privatisation programme, cuts to pay and conditions, and the withdrawal of facility time from the Unite trade union representative, Kathy Smith.
The dispute 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.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite regional officer Onay Kasab on 07771 818637 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2061 or 07768 693940.
The main points of Fair Deal For Local Government campaign are:
• if services are performing well, leave them in house
• if they are not performing well, look at ways of putting it right in house
• when contracting out services, over 50 per cent of the consideration should be about quality rather than cost
• fair employment rights for transferred staff – no zero hours contracts, pay the ‘living wage’, no downward pay and conditions harmonisation
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.