Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kelly's War is our war too

GLENN KELLY and above, the people in Bromley defending public services.

TRADE UNIONISTS, community campaigners, and anyone else concerned with maintaining public services in Britain are facing up to a fight with this Con-Dem government and those doing its bidding, and the fight has already begun.

In Barnet, on the northern rim of London, workers and service users joined a lobby at Hendon town hall last week against the Tory council's "Easy-council" plan for shedding services, and tomorrow evening, September 23 the Barnet trades union council is hosting a public meeting to launch a Barnet Alliance to Defend Public Services. Guest speakers include Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason, to put the cuts in context, and help put the Tories in their place.

In neighbouring Brent, the trades union council is backing a Brent Fightback campaign, due to hold its second meeting at the trades and labour hall on Willesden High Road on Wednesday evening, September 29.

Across the other end of London, Unison activist Glenn Kelly took the photo above with his mobile, from outside Bromley town hall, where he had joined council carers and relatives of care users lobbying against the cuts.

COMMUNITY CARE, an online newsletter for the caring professions, carried this report last month:

Council plans to axe in-house care provision
Mithran Samuel
Wednesday 18 August 2010

One hundred home care jobs are at risk in Bromley from cost-cutting council plans to end in-house care provision, a staff representative has warned.

Glenn Kelly, a staff representative at the south-east London council, claimed the authority was implementing plans to transfer all ongoing home care to the independent sector, where services are much cheaper, without consultation with users.

He has started a campaign to save the service, which he claims is backed by most home care staff and public service union Unison, which may take strike action if the plans are not reversed.

There are currently 146 home care staff, most of whom work part-time, serving 250 clients. About 40 jobs will be available in an expanded council reablement service, which will be ring-fenced for existing home care staff, and the council says there may be other opportunities for redeployment, such as in sheltered housing.

However, Kelly said the council had issued a call for voluntary redundancy and planned to make staff who had not been redeployed redundant in January 2011.

Councillors are due to vote on the proposal next month.

Kelly said that instead of tendering out the service and consulting on the changes, the move was being implemented by stealth, with independent care agencies taking on service users after in-house care staff left their posts. "Service users are being told their provider is being changed overnight," he said. "They are siphoning off the work even before the council has voted on whether to keep the in-house service."

He said this was despite 96% of users saying they were satisfied with the service in a recent survey.

Bromley council has confirmed that it expected in-house provision to decline over coming months with "packages moved to other providers". It claimed in-house provision was already in long-term decline, partly because users were taking up direct payments and personal budgets and spending them elsewhere.

That sounds in line with the same Tory policy being pursued by Barnet, whereby old people and others needing care will be given their money (means-tested?) and left to get on with it. It also sounds like another opportunity for enterprising private providers, the Tories' chums, to come in offering their services, at a profit, relieving the council of its cares and the disabled or pensioners of their money, so that we can expect a sequel to those TV series about cowboy builders, this time about rogue "carers". Only this time the witnesses might no longer be around to tell.

At the very least, those people who know community care say cuts are a false economy because they will only speed and increase the number of people needing hospital beds - which are also being cut. That's the thing with implementing cuts. Instead of joining forces to resist, each service provider -local authority, health service, voluntary sector - has to get its books in order by passing the parcel of responsibility to someone else -so after many years of working, and contributing to the community, old people who find themselves in need of care become "packages moved to other providers".

But Bromley's cuts are "fair" - they are hitting young, as well as old. At a time of soaring youth unemployment throughout the country, concern over access to higher education, and fears of more young people being drawn into gangs and being both perpetrators and victims of violent crime, Glenn Kelly had this to report on Facebook the other week:

Just on way back from meeting of 150 workers In the youth and connexions service where management announced 40% job cuts with rumour that half of all youth clubs to be closed. Time for the workers and youth of Bromley to unite and organise.

Quite. So what is Unison, the main union in local government and health services, doing?

At the Trades Union Congress in Manchester, Unison general secretary David Prentiss made a fine speech:

"Today we face our greatest test for a generation. Our economy still on life support. The blight of unemployment scarring lives, wearing down communities.

“A government with no democratic mandate. Mounting an assault on all that our movement has won for our people. Our pay, our pensions, our jobs. Our public services and our welfare state.

“An attack the like of which we have never seen before. The coalition taking a chainsaw to our public services. And they’re hoping no one will notice.

"Hoping no one will notice banks are posting record profits, bankers back to their bonuses. Hoping no one will notice the income, of the top 1 per cent of our society. Now greater than the total pay bill for our NHS, schools, and local government put together.

“Hoping no one will notice the amount we lose every year in tax evasion, and avoidance by big corporations. More than enough to wipe out the deficit at a stroke.

“A society in which some backers of the Tory party, pay less in tax than a cleaner in a hospital.

He went on to pledge:

“Who will champion what is right, not just what is popular? I’ll tell you who. We will. We will speak up for the vulnerable. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with those who work in public services, and those who rely on them. We will work together to raise public awareness. Build opposition. Give practical support to those in our communities fighting to defend their schools, their hospitals, their care homes,

“We will build alliances with NGO’s, with charities, social movements in the UK, our sisters and brothers taking action across Europe. We will build an alliance of public service unions to break the pay freeze. And when the call is there, we will move to co-ordinate industrial action to defend all we hold dear. All that past generations have fought for.

“Congress, we have to rise to the challenge. Show our resolve. Defend our welfare state. Fight for our vision of a fairer society. Build a powerful coalition of our own. Our members expect nothing less from this great movement of ours. To stand up for them. To protect their jobs, their welfare state. To lead the fight. Together united, fierce defenders of our members and the services they deliver".

See Prentis' speech in full:

That's fighting talk, and welcome it should be too.
But if Unison's leadership has been preparing for a fight it is not against the government.

Earlier this year, six full-time union officials strode into the union's office in Greenwich, south-east London early one morning, accompanied by the council's human resources manager. One of them told Greenwich branch secretary Onay Kassab(Kaz) to "disappear sharpish". Two other branches were hit by the dawn raids. Kaz and three other elected officers -one of them Bromley branch secretary Glenn Kelly, also an elected NEC member - have been barred from holding office.

Ostensibly, the moves against these four members began with the absurd row over three wise monkeys in a cartoon on a leaflet, which some people claimed was offensive. The officers long ago apologised for any unintended offence. But many members besides them suspect their real "offence" was to campaign too hard against New Labour policies, and union complaisance, knowing we would still be fighting privatisation and cuts had Gordon Brown been returned again. Glenn Kelly was re-elected to the NEC with an increased majority after the union had begun its moves against him.

If the Unison leadership is serious about fighting the Con Dem cuts, surely it would make sense to drop any bans and moves against these popular and dedicated union members, and bring them on board to help lead the fight?

Instead the four are having to continue to fight for the right to hold the positions to which they were elected by their fellow workers. As Glenn Kelly remarks tersely but sadly on Facebook today (Wednesday):

"Now preparing for day three of court case against union. From fight for workers jobs to now having to fight my own union can't be right".

I don't know Bro.Kelly personally. I am neither a member of his union, Unison, nor of the Socialist Party, to which he belongs. But whatever the court says, I'm pretty sure what the verdict of grass-roots trade union activists and campaigners will be.


BARNET meeting to launch Public Services Alliance:
Thursday 23 September, Emerald Suite, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1GN
Meeting starts at 7pm, but there will be refreshments available from 6.30pm for people coming from work.
Residents and people working in Barnet welcome. Plenty of time to discuss plans.
Guest speakers include: Paul Mason, Newsnight journalist (personal capacity), Alasdair Smith, Anti Academies Alliance.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home