In my many years of serving as an elected UNISON representative inHarrowI have witnessed some breathtaking errors in judgement on management’s part but this latest episode takes the proverbial biscuit. 


The Officer responsible for Human Resources, Mr Turner, has once again ill-advised the elected members of Harrow Council to embark on a course of action which is not only legally risky, but destructive to the once good industrial relations we are accustomed to, and which will cause financial misery for many of our members and staff across the organisation.

The proposals, although presented as “flexible” and “modern”, are an attack on the low paid and frontline staff which will suffer a far greater and disproportionate impact than the minimalistic salary reduction Mr Lockwood- (as seen in the Harrow Observer this week, some 2.3% according to their figures)- and his merry band of Directors face even less. 

The facts are simple; the removal of contractual allowances could mean a significantly high percentage cut in pay for hundreds of staff and enables the Authority to force staff to work evenings and weekends without any additional pay from any 5 of 7 working day week.  Our Care Managers and field staff will be hit by the removal of the Essential Car User Allowance, which for many is a contractual right and enhances the business needs of the Authority not to mention playing a key part in the protection of our vulnerable residents in times of emergency. 

In December 2011, the Branch team produced a professional counter proposal document which sought to mitigate the worst ofHarrow’s proposals but also recognised the financial pressures the Council faced.  We were more than accommodating and offered alternatives and, we believed, had time to agree the proposals which needed more work after the Christmas period. However given GMB’s hasty withdrawal from negotiations, the Authority was quick to close down discussions moving without haste to announce to all staff via Cabinet that they will bypass the collective bargaining process and take their harmful proposals (with added extra’s) in a ballot of the non-teaching workforce, approximately 5,000 staff.

In their haste to terminate the negotiation process they lumped this union in together with the GMB when the Chief Executive announced that ‘the unions had failed to agree’. This we believe was an intentional direct attack on this union since the statement is totally misleading and factually incorrect, given that we were still wishing to engage and negotiate right up to the time this statement was issued. This is unreasonable and completely unacceptable and so your Branch has taken swift action.  

In the next few months our members face an uncertain period and the prospect of redundancies, termination of contracts of employment and re-engagement on worse terms and conditions with no guidance as to what happens to their length of service.  The Authority in return can expect a robust response from UNISON starting today with the submission of a 300 strong Call-In Petition which we hope will makeBill Stephensonsee sense and return Harrow Council to the negotiating table.  This would be the action of a reasonable employer.  

Finally, In May 2010 the current Labour Administration was elected on their manifesto to “protect terms and conditions of staff” and it is clear Cllr Stephenson, with his generous member’s allowances has shamelessly broken this manifesto promise, whilst he oversees the Council spend extortionate amounts of public money on employing Consultants and Consultant firms to run the Authority for him and his chief officers.  Perhaps he should look at the massive annual cost for ‘consultancy’ before attacking the terms and conditions of some of the lowest paid

Workers in this council. The councils ‘modernising and flexible’ proposals are also the work of a highly paid consultant, whose salary for two days is more than a months salary for many of those they desire to reduce!

Now is the time for every member ofHarrow UNISONBranch to be counted, stand by your local representatives, lobby your local Councillor’s, attend our meetings, check the website (www.harrow-unison.org.uk) and read our literature because we, as a union, are the ones in this together.  We require the Council to restart discussions so that we can achieve a fair set of proposals that we can put to you in a members ballot.  

Remember, “We are many, but they are few”.

Gary Martin

Branch Secretary

Harrow UNISONLG Branch


Last Updated on Friday, 27 January 2012 11:11

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