Bromley residents are being asked to support the call for a ‘referendum’ on the future of the council’s learning disability services, which faces being privatised on 1 October.
Unite, the country’s largest union, is launching the ‘referendum’ to demand that residents, service users, carers and families have a say when it comes to the future of the service.
In protest at the privatisation, adult services staff will be striking for 48 hours from 00.01 on Thursday 27 August. As well as on the two strike days, the workers will be manning stalls on Bromley High Street this Saturday (22 August) from 11:00 to 13:00 asking residents to sign up for the call for a ‘referendum’.
The controversial Conservative-dominated authority, which has embarked on a mass privatisation of services, is planning to hand over the learning disability service based at the Astley day care centre to Certitude on 1 October.
The council is also considering the privatisation of 14 libraries, replacing staff with unpaid volunteers and handing the libraries over to charities. This has prompted a five-day strike of Unite’s library staff members starting at 00:01 on 1 September.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Bromley is a council in crisis because of its misguided and dogmatic privatisation plans, which don’t have the support of the public. This would be borne out if a referendum was held.
“We now have a matter of weeks to stop the privatisation of the Astley day centre. It is appalling that while services for disabled people are supposed to be moving in a ‘choice-based’ direction, this council refuses to give disabled people a voice.
“If the privatisation goes ahead, we fear that the closure of Astley will follow. Certitude will run the contract for Bromley, yet the council as the client is not willing to specify that Astley must remain open. The council is passing the buck to Certitude, so if the centre closes, councillors will not take the political flak.
“If the council will not give disabled people, carers and families a voice, then Unite will. That is why we have launched our referendum campaign and ask everybody to sign up.”
On the five day strike by library staff Onay Kasab added: “Library workers are taking five days' strike action at the start of next month. This follows the refusal of the council to abide by its own consultation exercise when over 80 per cent of respondents opposed its privatisation plans to replace paid, professional staff with volunteers.
“We are determined to save libraries in Bromley. Previous consultations and surveys show that this is the view of the public too.”
The council 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.
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 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 the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
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
The campaign website is http://uniteforpublicservices.org/
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.