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20.04.15

Bromley Council workers to stage further strike action over ‘mass privatisation’

Members of the Unite union who are employed by Bromley Council are to stage a second wave of strikes over what they call the local authority’s “mass privatisation” plans.

Earlier this month staff from libraries, parks and adult services held strike action over two days over plans to outsource services and replace qualified staff with volunteers.

There will be selected strikes from 27 April to 18 May which dovetail with the stand of the council’s Labour group, which has accused the Conservative-dominated authority of being “openly committed to being a ‘commissioning council’ and to reducing the number of council employees from 4,000 to 300”.

Onay Kasab, Unite regional officer, said: “The aim of the strikes is to stop and roll back the privatisation of council services. Such a privatisation process has been shown to fail when it has been implemented in Bromley over the last 12 months.

“The previous two days of strike action earlier this month led to libraries shutting, the care centre closing and the passenger services not running.

“While this was inconvenient to local people, the bigger picture is that if a stand is not made now against privatisation, there will be a gradual deterioration in what people have been used to expect from their council, leaving just a skeleton of services.” 

Unite’s selected strike action will hit libraries (27 April-30 April); the parks (5 May); strikes by all the branch members, except school staff, on 1, 7 and 19 May; and at the Astley care centre and the passenger services (13-18 May).

The union claims that despite having £130m in reserves, Bromley Council is privatising the bulk of its services, including services aimed at vulnerable members of the community, parks, passenger services and libraries.

Last year, PSE reported that a tribunal ordered Bromley Council to pay more than £64,000 in compensation to 18 of its staff who were offered cash incentives to sign new contracts that would have taken them out of existing collective bargaining agreements.

One letter written by the council offered £200 to staff who signed new employment contracts which included a localised pay award, instead of a national or regional collective agreement.

UPDATE

A Bromley spokesperson told PSE: “Bromley Council continues to reiterate that it will only consider outsourcing if it represents good value for residents. We continue to examine every service and cost pressure to find the most effective and efficient ways to deliver services which focus on those who need them most. 

“We look at every possible service delivery option to ensure we continue to provide the best value for money for Bromley taxpayers as the Council has done for many years. These options include continuing to provide services in-house or to facilitate social enterprise or outsourcing. The Council has to identify £50m savings over the next four years from a net budget of around £200m so it is inevitable that some services will have to be provided in different ways into the future. We regret that further industrial action is being considered when the one day and hourly strikes earlier this month were supported by fewer than four per cent of our workforce. If further strikes do go ahead, we would like to reassure residents that the Council will do everything in its power to minimise any adverse impact on critical services.”

(Image source: Andrew Skudder)

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