Barnet workers to go on strike over outsourcing


6:21 pm - March 10th 2011

by Kate Belgrave    


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More than 140 staff at Barnet Council’s Regulatory Service’s Department will take industrial action, in a bid to remain directly employed by the council.

Barnet council is a flagship for the Tory’s small-state vision of outsourced public service delivery.

Instead of directly providing services, the council plans to shrink the workforce down to a small core of a few hundred staff, who will commission services from outside providers. The current workforce is 3500.

The Regulatory Services Department is first in line for sell off, which includes Trading Standards and Licensing, Land Charges, Environmental Health, Planning and Development, Highways, Cemeteries, Registrars, Building Control. The programme of action is designed to cause maximum disruption to councillors and to their plans, but very little inconvenience to local residents.

Vicky Easton, UNISON head of local government in London, said:

Many council workers are Barnet residents too – they wont just stand aside and watch the council take a wreaking ball to local services. This department is well run and staff want to remain directly employed by the council. We’ve tried to negotiate, we’ve presented the council with alternative proposals, but they stubbornly refuse to listen. Staff do not take action lightly, but they’ve tried everything else – they have no other choice.

The action starting next week will cause maximum disruption for councillors and for their agenda, but have a minimum impact on the public. We remind the employers they could avoid action by getting into talks.

Action will begin on Wednesday 16 March. Staff will stop answering calls, attending meetings and other support work.

*Full list of departments

Trading Standards and Licensing Land Charges
Planning and Development
Building Control and Structure Registration (births, deaths and marriages)
Environmental Health Highways Strategy
Highways Network and Management
Highways Traffic and Development
Highways Transport and Regeneration
Strategic Planning and Regeneration
Cemeteries and Crematoria

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About the author
Kate Belgrave is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. She is a New Zealander who moved to the UK eight years ago. She was a columnist and journalist at the New Zealand Herald and is now a web editor. She writes on issues like public sector cuts, workplace disputes and related topics. She is also interested in abortion rights, and finding fault with religion. Also at: Hangbitching.com and @hangbitch
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Reader comments


Class war at its finest.

It is now clear that both in the UK and the US the brownshirts are going for total destruction of the unions. Not surprised. The idle rich want it all.

Go back to your constituencies, and prepare for slavery.

I can’t speak for Barnet but in my experience it would be almost impossible to tell whether the planning department had gone on strike unless they did so for more than 2 years.

“More than 140 staff at Barnet Council’s Regulatory Service’s Department will take industrial action, in a bid to remain directly employed by the council.”

Proof perfect that the council workers know they are overpaid.

If they thought they were being underpaid then of course they would be clamouring to be in the private sector, where wages must be higher (must be, for that’s the only way that the public sector workers can be underpaid).

That they will strike to remain in the public sector is thus proof that they consider themselves overpaid in the public sector. It is an acceptance that a private sector company would be able to fill their jobs at lower wages, isn’t it?

Remember your basic economics: revealed preferences. Look at what people do, not what they say.

Tim,

I think the issue is that people know what will happen to them if they are outsourced. It’s not so much a case of people being overpaid in the public sector as underpaid in the private sector.

Am writing a piece on this at the moment, so will upload that soon – it will probably provide a better basis for a discussion about comparative conditions between the public and private sectors. You can look at this in the interim, though, for an example of transferred workers suffering a private-sector slaughtering of terms and conditions and wages:

http://www.hangbitch.com/photobitch/v/photoessays/Strictlybusiness/

When private companies win public sector contracts, the first thing they do is sweat the assets – they cut salaries, staff leave allowances and often training programmes and so on – with a view to increasing contract returns to shareholders. Whether or not the taxpayer gains from this scenario is a question that a lot of people have been asking for a long while – in the example on the link above, Barnet council was compelled by arbitrators to pay a provider partner an extra £8m or so outside of the agreed contract settlement because cutting staff salaries, etc, hadn’t yielded the savings the company had hoped. Privatisation can be devastating for staff and services, and does not always mean value for money for taxpayers. More on this soon, as I say.

“It’s not so much a case of people being overpaid in the public sector as underpaid in the private sector. ”

My point exactly: as you say, public sector workers are overpaid compared to private sector workers.

Yeah, Tim, but your argument seems to be that all wages ought to be dragged down to often-unprotected private sector levels, when perhaps more effort should be put into bringing private sector wages up to public sector levels.

Those careworkers I talk about above ended up on below-subsistence wages – as so many in the care and cleaning industries do. They didn’t actually want riches – they wanted enough to live on.

Cue trolling about the evils of a minimum wage…

“Yeah, Tim, but your argument seems to be that all wages ought to be dragged down to often-unprotected private sector levels”

Indeed it is. Do note that we have another name for that “protection” of which you speak. Rent seeking. Naughty stuff when you use that name for it.

“Those careworkers I talk about above ended up on below-subsistence wages – as so many in the care and cleaning industries do. They didn’t actually want riches – they wanted enough to live on.”

Great. Everyone would like enough to live on. And the only way we can get that is economic growth. One thing which would increase economic growth of course is getting closer to something like sull employment. How might we do that?

Well, the very existence of involuntary unemployment (over and above simple frictional stuff, people out of work for a few weeks/months as they change jobs) is proof that wages are too high for the labour market to clear. So, wages need to fall so that the market does clear. Thus we will get back to full employment, economic growth will rise and the day when all do indeed have living wages will come closer.

Short term pain for long term gain…..

Tim is never happier than when he is supporting an ever quicker race to the bottom. He loves it when workers lose their pensions and have their wages cut.

He will not be happy until most people work for nothing and live in poverty.

Tim – Isn’t your analysis missing an acknowledgement of the effect of employment levels on inflation?

And I’m not sure that the only way everyone could have enough to live on is via economic growth. Redistributing some wealth might help, as part of a general approach that aims for a more effective allocation of resources than we get under the current system. As a basic example, I’m quite sure I would have enough to live on if my calorie intake was reduced and somehow allocated to someone else, without a particular need for economic growth. It’s quite possible that we produce enough food to feed everyone in the world, it is just poorly distributed so that broadly speaking we over-consume in the global north and under-consume in the global south.

In fact, I’m actually quite confused by your idea that the only way for everyone to have enough is economic growth.

“In fact, I’m actually quite confused by your idea that the only way for everyone to have enough is economic growth.”

Allow me to solve that confusion.

Current average global GDP is $8,000 per capita.

That’s, ish, ish, £5,000 a year.

Absolutely no one thinks that £5,000 a year is enough. Minimum wage is £11,500 (ish) a year and living wage is £13,800 (ish).

Now GDP per capita is not the same as wages per capita. There has to be some for returns to capital, for depreciation, for investment etc.

But even so, £5,000 a year average for the entire planet is less than “enough” as defined by lefties here in the UK.

Thus, by simple logic, we must have further economic growth before everyone can have enough.

The only way out of this is to say that not everyone needs £11,500 a year, or £13,800 a year. Which is fine, but does rather undermine the ideas about minimum wages and poverty in the UK, doesn’t it?

Your argument only works by accepting the value of GDP as a measure of how well a society is working and how well off its citizens are, which plenty of plenty of people don’t.

If that’s the assumption you want to make, that’s fine, but its a controversial one so be prepared for it to be challenged, and for the rest of your argument to be undermined if it rests on it.

12. So Much For Subtlety

1. sally – “Class war at its finest.”

Where is the class war? A group of parasites that live off the state rightly fear that they will be forced to actually work for a living if their jobs are privatised. They are not a class. They do not labour with their hands or minds. They live off the rest of us. They are a rentier class if anything.

Any Leftist in their right mind would insist that workers are entitled to keep as much of the value of their production as possible. Cosseted middle class parasites who live off the rest of us may be a necessary evil, but we should do everything we can to keep them to a minimum.

“Your argument only works by accepting the value of GDP as a measure of how well”

No, it doesn’t require that. GDP is a measure of the amount of income there is available to be distributed amongst everyone. That’s just what it is, for all of its faults.

SDo, if we find that splitting up all of the possible income equally among everyone gives us not enough for everyone to have enough then it is obvious that for everyone to have enough we need to have a larger GP.

is, more economic growth.

Tim @ 10

Well, the very existence of involuntary unemployment (over and above simple frictional stuff, people out of work for a few weeks/months as they change jobs) is proof that wages are too high for the labour market to clear.

Fucking bollocks and you know it. Look at the rest of the World. The places with the lowest wages have highest unemployment.

You don’t even have the decency to tell believable lies, Tim, because your ‘destroy, destoy, destory’ at all costs has fallen around your ears.

15. So Much For Subtlety

14. Jim – “Fucking bollocks and you know it. Look at the rest of the World. The places with the lowest wages have highest unemployment.”

Sorry but no it isn’t. I have lived in a number of places with low wages. Really low wages. And I assure you unemployment is roughly zero. The unemployment rate is linked to the relative generosity of benefits. Such countries tend to have no benefits.

What he means is high relative to productivity. Wages, in the long run, are determined by productivity. In the short term by demand. If we force up wages beyond the workers’ productivity, unemployment goes up. I think that he is wrong because people out of work are not really looking for work. For most it is a lifestyle choice. But in general, the way to deal with real unemployment is either to reduce wages until everyone has a job, or to allow the economy to grow until demand has risen to the point everyone is in work.

I like the fact the the Union spokesperson admits that despite the staff going on strike the public won’t notice!

They are not needed, they are a drain on the council tax and can be easily replaced by hard working members of the private sector.

Sorry but no it isn’t. I have lived in a number of places with low wages. Really low wages. And I assure you unemployment is roughly zero.

So, no unemployment in Brazil or anywhere in Africa or large parts of Asia, then? All the unemployment we see there is just a figment of our imagination? All those people seriously trying to eke out livings in Third World rubbish tips are doing that after they finish their day jobs? All those North African/middle Eastern people on the streets demanding jobs are just lazy bastards wanting benefits? So all those people in townships and squatter camps, all just a myth?

Get fucking real you despicable little man, what the fuck do you know about real life? You are nothing more than a jumped up little Walter Mitty with a zero life. What a sad waste of space your empty life must be.

Note to decent people, including Lib Dems:

SMFS @ 15:

I think that he is wrong because people out of work are not really looking for work.

It has been nearly five hours since the fuckwit made this remark and not a single so called ‘decent Tory’ has made any attempt to put him straight or argue the toss with him. Yet, I am constantly told that the ‘majority’ of Tories are ‘quite nice, really. To me, I think that is evidence that his views reperesent what the majority of Tory scum think.

Prove me wrong.

Tim –

GDP does not measure whether the resources are available to meet everyone’s needs, only the market value of goods and services. It doesn’t measure how these goods and services are distributed to the population. It also doesn’t include unpaid work or goods or services that are not part of the official market. If I and all my neighbours grow our own fruit and veg, this does not increase GDP or contribute towards economic growth but does increase our ability to meet our basic needs.

It is a crude measure that, if we were using it in the way you seem to be suggesting, would consider the Exxon Valdez oil spill (which showed up as a net economic gain in the US because of the expenditures associated with the clean-up effort) to have increased our ability to meet everyone’s needs.

All I am saying is that if you want to use GDP as a measure of whether everyone’s needs are being or could be met when it is quite specifically not a measure of this – and in making economic growth (and by your logic, lower wages for low paid workers) your target you appear to be doing this – you would need to explain your rationale for doing so. Until you are able to justify your assumptions, your logic is flawed.

20. So Much For Subtlety

17. Jim – “So, no unemployment in Brazil or anywhere in Africa or large parts of Asia, then?”

Well Brazil is an interesting case because the informal economy is so large. On paper, they do have unemployment. In reality, they don’t. So yes, pretty much, there is no unemployment in Brazil, in Africa or Asia.

“All the unemployment we see there is just a figment of our imagination?”

What unemployment? You go to any Third World country and what you see is not unemployment but frantic hustling for a living. They are not only working, they are working damn hard.

“All those people seriously trying to eke out livings in Third World rubbish tips are doing that after they finish their day jobs?”

No. That is their day job. Why do you think they are on those rubbish tips? They are looking for stuff to sell. They are not unemployed.

“All those North African/middle Eastern people on the streets demanding jobs are just lazy bastards wanting benefits? So all those people in townships and squatter camps, all just a myth?”

There is poverty in townships, but there is rarely unemployment.

“Get fucking real you despicable little man, what the fuck do you know about real life?”

Travel Jim. Talk to some people outside your comfort zone. Learn.

18. Jim – “It has been nearly five hours since the fuckwit made this remark and not a single so called ‘decent Tory’ has made any attempt to put him straight or argue the toss with him. Yet, I am constantly told that the ‘majority’ of Tories are ‘quite nice, really. To me, I think that is evidence that his views reperesent what the majority of Tory scum think.”

Well, if you think you can argue the toss, feel free to do so. We know that under Blair some 3.5 million jobs were created. And virtually none of them went to the long-term unemployed. We imported Poles to do those jobs instead. I would be interested to know by what logic you can say that there is any other conclusion apart from the fact unemployed British people did not want to do those jobs. They chose not to.

“Prove me wrong.”

I am sorry you think reality is unpleasant. It often is. But that does not make it any less real. But perhaps I am wrong. By all means, feel free to point out what was wrong with what I said.

@20

“What unemployment? You go to any Third World country and what you see is not unemployment but frantic hustling for a living. They are not only working, they are working damn hard.”

or

“They are looking for stuff to sell. They are not unemployed.”

Oh that’s alright then. That’s where we should all aim for then, according to TorySpeak. Dig for the rubbish tip. That’s the Tory Dream.

Good. God.

SMFS @ 20

So yes, pretty much, there is no unemployment in Brazil, in Africa or Asia.

Really, none? You think you can just spout all this rubbish and you think normal people will swallow it hook line and sinker? You really think that people rummaging rubbish tips constitutes ‘not being unemployed? What a fuckwit you are. Who the fuck looks at rubbish tips, people in shantytowns and sees the economic model they want for this Country? Of course, it is the same ‘people’ who look at child prostitution, and consider that to be part of the solution too. I bet you have spent a number of holidays in places like Thailand, drooling.

We imported Poles to do those jobs instead. I would be interested to know by what logic you can say that there is any other conclusion apart from the fact unemployed British people did not want to do those jobs. They chose not to.

You really need to learn about real life, don’t you? You are aware that on ‘planet real life’ we have things like ‘interviews’, ‘application forms’ etc.? Had you taken the two second s to think about it you would understand that life is a bity more complecated than that. Here in ‘real life’ we see that most people move in and out of jobs and are unemployed for short times. People who are long term unemployed tend to get squeezed out of the market by better and more able people. The Poles comming here came from the top end of the Polish bell curve, by and large and many left reasonably well paying jobs in their own ountry to work here. They simply displaced others in the work force. That is not unusual, is it? Plenty of British people move abroad, but for some reason, the long term unemployed do not. It is normally the most mobile people that emigrate.

http://tradingeconomics.com/Economics/Unemployment-rate.aspx?symbol=PLN

The Poles have high unemployment, around 13%, does that make Poles lazier than Brits?

23. So Much For Subtlety

21. claude – “Oh that’s alright then. That’s where we should all aim for then, according to TorySpeak. Dig for the rubbish tip. That’s the Tory Dream.”

Utter genius claude. It takes real genius to imagine that there is an “ought” behind that “is”.

24. So Much For Subtlety

22. Jim – “You think you can just spout all this rubbish and you think normal people will swallow it hook line and sinker?”

It depends how in touch with reality people are. But yes.

“You really think that people rummaging rubbish tips constitutes ‘not being unemployed? What a fuckwit you are. Who the fuck looks at rubbish tips, people in shantytowns and sees the economic model they want for this Country?”

I really think that people looking on tips for stuff to sell constitutes actual employment. Not good employment. But employment nonetheless. I have no idea, but you brought it up. Not me.

“You really need to learn about real life, don’t you? You are aware that on ‘planet real life’ we have things like ‘interviews’, ‘application forms’ etc.?”

But not for Poles? Is this your claim?

“Had you taken the two second s to think about it you would understand that life is a bity more complecated than that. Here in ‘real life’ we see that most people move in and out of jobs and are unemployed for short times.”

Sure. And we see that Britain has millions of people who are not only out of work, but are permanently out of work. For generations in some families. That is real life too.

“People who are long term unemployed tend to get squeezed out of the market by better and more able people.”

Yeah. People who want to work for instance.

“The Poles comming here came from the top end of the Polish bell curve, by and large and many left reasonably well paying jobs in their own ountry to work here. They simply displaced others in the work force. That is not unusual, is it?”

They did not displace anyone. Some 3.5 million new jobs were created. I am not sure many Polish doctors came to this country to pick cabbages myself, but perhaps I am wrong. Nice to see the Bell Curve making a positive appearance at LC though.

“Plenty of British people move abroad, but for some reason, the long term unemployed do not. It is normally the most mobile people that emigrate.”

Yeah. People who want jobs for instance.

SMFS @ 24

Ho hum, here we go. Poles comming here with lots of work history and real experience will be able to outcompete people with poorer educational backgrounds, underlying illnesses childcare problems or people who have elderly parents to look after etc. There are people who simply do not want to work, but it is idiotic for you to assume that just because someone is unemployed it is always down to chioce.

Of course, I am dealing with someone who denies the existence of unemployment people in Africa and South America, so denying the existence of unemployment in this Country is a piece of piss to the fuckwitted Tories among us.

The concept that selling rubbish collected from tips is ’employment’ is simply beyond parody. There is no need for satire when Tories are saying things like this.

26. So Much For Subtlety

25. Jim – “Poles comming here with lots of work history and real experience will be able to outcompete people with poorer educational backgrounds, underlying illnesses childcare problems or people who have elderly parents to look after etc.”

They will also be able to out compete people who do not want to work. It is wonderful to see we are in so much agreement – it is the refusal of British people to work that damages their long term prospects. It does not matter that Poles were in dead-end low-paid jobs that went nowhere. Jobs that would make working in MacDonald’s look sophisticated. It was enough that they wanted to work and that they had worked. Thus it seems we agree that we damage ourselves when we allow the long term unemployed to remain workless. Any job is better than none. As these Poles prove.

“There are people who simply do not want to work, but it is idiotic for you to assume that just because someone is unemployed it is always down to chioce.”

I don’t assume it is *always* down to choice. There are large numbers of people who cycle in and out of work. They want to work and so soon re-enter the work force.

“Of course, I am dealing with someone who denies the existence of unemployment people in Africa and South America, so denying the existence of unemployment in this Country is a piece of piss to the fuckwitted Tories among us.”

Except, of course, I do not deny unemployment in this country. We have generous benefits. Thus we have high unemployment. Africa does not have benefits. Therefore people work or go hungry.

“The concept that selling rubbish collected from tips is ‘employment’ is simply beyond parody. There is no need for satire when Tories are saying things like this.”

It is a simple statement of fact. They are doing something they would not otherwise do for money. The very definition of employment. That it is ugly does not change what it is.

SMFS @ 26

It was enough that they wanted to work and that they had worked. Thus it seems we agree that we damage ourselves when we allow the long term unemployed to remain workless.

So what? You think we should impose the unemployed onto employers who happen to have jobs vacant? We should take half a dozen unemployed down to the local shoe shop and FORCE them to employ them, irrespective of the needs of the business? Yeah, I can see this happening.

Another fuckwitted Tory idea, up in smoke.

This is why people from your culture get everything wrong, you are basically too stupid to follow the real World. You are too busy simply making things up to fit your World view. It would be nice if the entire planet was in full employment, so, why not pretend that the entire planet has jobs?

What is it that the rest of us are seeing that you able to spot? When we see huge unemployment in some of the World’s poorest Countries, you see millions of people holding down jobs? Are you really that thick? Can you you really believe that only Tories can visit other Countries? That only Tories have been outside the borders of Western Europe?

@23 So Much Etc

Keep up will you, mate?

Jim pointed out that countries where wages are very low are hardly a beacon of full employment and wealth.

You started arguing the toss that no, they’re not unemployed, most rummage through bins and sell scraps.

So I said, oh that’s alright then. That’s hardly a model to aspire to.

Surely even a Tory mwill be able to grasp that countries were people are paid a pittance have terrible levels of poverty, crime, deprivation, ill health and, YES, also unemployment. Low wages simply make things a lot worse.

29. So Much For Subtlety

27. Jim – “You think we should impose the unemployed onto employers who happen to have jobs vacant? We should take half a dozen unemployed down to the local shoe shop and FORCE them to employ them, irrespective of the needs of the business? Yeah, I can see this happening.”

No. But I don’t see why we should make benefits dependent on working a full 36 hour week. Or at least a decent fraction of that.

“It would be nice if the entire planet was in full employment, so, why not pretend that the entire planet has jobs?”

No one is claiming the entire planet has jobs. I understand why you need to lie about what other people say but I do wish you would stop. It is boring.

“What is it that the rest of us are seeing that you able to spot?”

Quite a lot of things I suppose. The question is why are you fighting reality.

“When we see huge unemployment in some of the World’s poorest Countries, you see millions of people holding down jobs? Are you really that thick? Can you you really believe that only Tories can visit other Countries? That only Tories have been outside the borders of Western Europe?”

We? This the Royal We is it? Most sane people see people in employment when they are, in fact, in employment. It has nothing to do with being a Tory or not. It has to do with dealing with the real world.

30. So Much For Subtlety

28. claude – “You started arguing the toss that no, they’re not unemployed, most rummage through bins and sell scraps.”

Actually no. Jim argued low wage countries have a lot of unemployment. I pointed out that they did not. Jim then insisted that people paid to pick through garbage were really unemployed. I did not bring it up. He did.

“So I said, oh that’s alright then. That’s hardly a model to aspire to.”

No one is suggesting we do. But it would take a full scale civilisational collapse a la Mad Max possibly involving nuclear war before anyone in Britain would. So it is irrelevant.

“Surely even a Tory mwill be able to grasp that countries were people are paid a pittance have terrible levels of poverty, crime, deprivation, ill health and, YES, also unemployment. Low wages simply make things a lot worse.”

No. They won’t. They will have terrible levels of poverty and deprivation. But they will not have unemployment unless the government meddles with the free labour market. And not just meddles but meddles effectively. They will have crime if their government does not care to enforce law and order. They will have ill health if the government does not care to provide some level of health care. Neither requires high wages. China and Cuba both lie about their figures so it is hard to say for them. But Costa Rica does not.

@22

It doesn’t really help the level of debate to accuse people of paedophilia because they disagree with you. Disagree with him if you like, but he’s struck a far more polite tone than you.

@25

The concept that selling rubbish collected from tips is ‘employment’ is simply beyond parody. There is no need for satire when Tories are saying things like this.

This is such a boring semantic debate. He means ‘work’.


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Barnet council workers to go on strike over out-sourcing plans http://bit.ly/gEmQ2K

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    RT @libcon: Barnet council workers to go on strike over out-sourcing plans http://bit.ly/gEmQ2K

  3. Deyan Marconny.

    RT @libcon: Barnet council workers to go on strike over out-sourcing plans http://bit.ly/gEmQ2K

  4. Kelvin John Edge

    RT @libcon: Barnet council workers to go on strike over out-sourcing plans http://bit.ly/gEmQ2K

  5. Gez Kirby

    RT @libcon: Barnet council workers to go on strike over out-sourcing plans http://bit.ly/gEmQ2K

  6. paurina

    RT @libcon: Barnet council workers to go on strike over out-sourcing plans http://bit.ly/gEmQ2K

  7. Going on strike to remain in the public sector

    […] Proof perfect that the council workers know they are overpaid. […]

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