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TUPE TRANSFER WATCH #3: IS IT RACIST (SLIGHT RETURN)?

Further analysis of the Equalities Impact Assessment (EqIA) for the transfer of Bristol City Council cleaners and security to Bristol Waste reveals that over 36 per cent of the staff involved are black, not 34 per cent as we claimed last week. The increase is because we didn’t include groups such as Pakistani and Black Caribbean/White who are underrepresented among cleaners and security.

It is also noteworthy that, despite allegedly running a ‘comprehensive’ consultation with these staff, the council does not know the ethnicity of 42 out of 215 of them. That’s 19.5 per cent of this workforce. This is over double the ‘unknown’ figure for the whole city council workforce, which stands at 9 per cent. Could more work have gone into the council’s ‘comprehensive’ consultation of cleaners and security?

The EqIA is also unfinished. Here’s what we find at the end of the report:

EqIA

Will Bristol City Council go ahead and outsource staff on the basis of an unfinished EqIA and a one page ‘comprehensive’ consultation that fails to state what staff said about the transfer? Is such a set of circumstances even policy compliant?

Meanwhile, the council’s Equality and Inclusion Progress Report 2019-20  tells us ,“a review of our Equality and Diversity Function in 2018 identified that equality impact assessments were often undertaken after, rather than before, service design or service changes have been proposed.”

Nothing’s changed since 2018 then.

Maybe proper EqIA’s are only needed for jazzy management and professional  job changes at Bristol City Council?

REBEL WITH A CAUSE

YESTERDAY LABOUR’S FROME VALE COUNCILLOR, NICOLA BOWDEN-JONES DEFIED THE WHIP AND THE BULLIES IN HER PARTY TO VOTE AGAINST THE LABOUR BUDGET. HERE IS THE SPEECH SHE MADE, WHICH SHE HAS POSTED TO FACEBOOK:

Thank you Lord Mayor.When I was a child I watched war films with my Dad. I worried that if I faced the choice between following the pack whose collective actions were perilous to others, would my ethics be sufficient to enable me to stand alone. Today I test my own hypothesis.

So let’s get one thing straight, this Council rent freeze is nothing to do with coronavirus or helping people on low incomes. – Let’s be honest.

I’ve been at the Labour Group meetings where speaker after speaker supporting the freeze, starts by saying we shouldn’t raise rents in the run up to the election. Some don’t understand what a rent freeze means, rent is income, creating borrowing power, without which we restrict our ability to repair, regenerate, retrofit and build houses

Every four years they would ditch housing investment for votes. Do you know of any other business models where your 30 year plan is punctuated every 4 years by self-indulgence?

We are happy to put up council tax for the same people by 5%, yet apparently a 1.5% rent rise is too much for people to take even though the benefits system for both is the same. The report which went to cabinet, showed an enormous reduction in social rented housing. Because 30% of the future programme will now be shared ownershipA difficult decision for some members of the cabinet.

Difficult for Helen Godwin as cutting the social rented housing programme means, she is voting today to leave families in temporary accommodation for longer, we know they can’t afford shared ownership.

Difficult for Nicola Beech our staunch advocate for strong planning policy, she is voting for a form of shared ownership which doesn’t meet the planning department’s definition of affordable.

Difficult for Afzal Shah, because he is voting to take over £100m from the spending power of the housing department when there is a bill of £500m to retrofit homes to meet our carbon reduction target.

Difficult for cabinet members who have lived in council housing to remove an opportunity for those who now have that same need for a home -they once had.

Difficult for some of my colleagues who have been told they will not be able to stand in the May election if they vote to save our council housing.

Difficult to look at the finances and say there is an underspend. COVID means thousands of repairs have not been completed, or even reported. Have those repairs now disappeared with the vaccinations? Did we have a vaccination that made the damp, or broken windows, or leaking roofs disappear?

The money is only there because the repairs have not been done.

We must ask ourselves when will we be told that the challenges we have in sustaining council housing can only be solved by public private partnerships, public -private partnership read privatisation?

We should not put votes before ensuring our tenants have warm, safe and well maintained homes.

We should not put a headline on a leaflet or a tweet, before building social rented, yes social rented not shared ownership, homes for the thousands of families in temporary accommodation or insecure, expensive private lettings.

Actually it’s not difficult. There are a thousand children in our city in temporary accommodation. The choice today is clear, vote for their future, the future that many years ago someone was brave enough to give you. The future of our cities council housing and not its decay.

TUPE TRANSFER WATCH #2: IS IT RACIST?

HR meeting
The great white masters decide the fate of the black workers

The transfer of Bristol City Council’s lowest paid staff in security and cleaning to Bristol Waste to save the authority a few quid and prop up their cash-strapped waste company looks racist.

 One thing left unexplored by the council’s HR Committee last Thursday was the fact that, at least, 34 per cent of the staff involved are black and many have English as a second language. Although that’s not the full picture as ethnic data on this section of the council’s workforce is incomplete.

 Many observers see this as a text book case of institutional racism as well-paid white male bosses assure councillors that these voiceless staff are happy to be transferred over to Bristol Waste on poorer terms and conditions than the ones the bosses will continue to enjoy.

 Director of Workforce John “Bedwetter” Walsh – who gets by on £122,475 a year plus £20,835 pension contributions – didn’t mention to the HR meeting the make-up of this section of his workforce. Was he embarrassed to admit that he’s forcing one of the lowest paid sections of his workforce with one of the highest numbers of black employees on to second class terms and conditions?

 An Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) has been produced for a Cabinet meeting on Thursday and it confirms that 34 per cent of this workforce is black as well as showing that data on ethnicity for this section of the workforce is incomplete. The assessment also contains plenty of weasel words that try to excuse management.

 For example, it claims any ‘potentially adverse impacts on people with protected characteristics’ are ‘indirect’. As if poorer terms and conditions do not directly affect those concerned? The EqIA also claims, ‘contractual terms and conditions (including pay and pension) are protected in law, and it would be unlawful for the new employer to seek to change these for any reason connected with the transfer.’

 Then comes the caveat, ‘unless they have a justifiable Economic, Technological or Organisational Reason for doing so’. In other words, Bristol Waste have loopholes on hand to set about attacking these workers’ terms and conditions from the day one.

 The assessment also explains that ‘Non-contractual elements – such as HR policies – would change to those of the new employer, which may be more or less generous than those currently in place’. Why so coy over whether these conditions are more or less generous? The council know. It’s a simple exercise for HR bosses to read Bristol Waste’s HR policies and compare them to their own. Why hasn’t this been done?

 On the question of whether these workers’ existing HR terms and conditions will be protected, we’re told ‘BCC and BWC may secure greater protection of noncontractual terms, subject to this being affordable within the overall business case for the proposal’. In other words, terms and conditions will be traded away on the basis of a mysterious business case that hasn’t been published.

 Last year the council published a worthy ‘Transforming race and equality at BCC’ document to help them tackle their ongoing problems with institutional racism. The report’s recommendations under the heading  ‘Corporate Leadership’ addressing Equality Impact Assessments say, ‘In the event of there being likely disproportionalities in relation to BAME staff, a corporately agreed mechanism should be established to explore the reasons; and to determine whether there may be ways of mitigating against this.’

So where’s Bedwetter’s corporately agreed mechanism exploring the reasons why black staff are being disproportionately affected by an outsourcing plan that’s attempting to save a few quid at the expense of workers’ dignity?

TUPE TRANSFER WATCH #1

THE REVEREND’S ATTEMPT TO OUTSOURCE VULNERABLE CLEANING AND SECURITY STAFF TO BRISTOL WASTE GOES NUCLEAR DURING HR CONFLAB

HR meeting
Handsworth Parish Council talk HR

The passing resemblance of last Thursday’s HR Committee Meeting of Bristol City Council to a Handsworth Parish Council Zoom session wasn’t just down to useful-idiot HR Director Mark “Bashar” Williams’ accidentally misinforming himself over whether or not he was still paying Colin “Head Boy” Molton the second highest local government salary in the country.

The meeting also had a special ‘Chair’s Business’ section dedicated to Director of Workforce John “Bedwetter” Walsh’s half-arsed plan to outsource his low paid council security and cleaning staff to Bristol Waste to save money.

It was this issue that had barking Tory nutjob Councillor Richard “Bunter” Eddy telling Bedwetter that his description of the outsourcing proposal was “worthy of Dr Goebbels and the Third Reich.”

The comment drew a weak Claude Rains impression from Bedwetter as he attempted to feign shock at being branded, on the public record, as a liar by a senior councillor. It’s also noteworthy that staunch right winger, Bunter managed to outflank the Reverend Rees on the left with his views on this outsourcing issue,

Bunter’s comments came partly in response to Bedwetter’s ludicrous claim that the staff he had formally consulted were entirely in favour of a move to Bristol Waste and Bedwetter didn’t recognise Bunter and the trade unions’ version of events.

Versions outlined in a series of public statements and comments to the meeting. Bunter said that the staff he had spoken with were “scared and mystified” and were “terrified of losing their job” if they spoke directly with councillors or made public statements, as is their right, at council meetings.

The GMB told the meeting “Not one member of BCC staff … has expressed a wish to move across” and “the vast majority, many of whom are long service, wish to stay with BCC”.

Unison’s Tom “The Red” Merchant got even more to the point. He told the meeting, “The affected staff are very angry indeed over this and we don’t see why we should be shielding anyone from what is an understandable disaffection on the part of our members”

Tom the Red was also bemused that Bedwetter had managed to consult with cleaning staff, many of whom did not speak English and require an interpreter for Unison to be able to speak with them. He summed up, “staff who face transfers feel like they are bought and sold like cattle and though this phrase really upsets HR it is how the staff feel and I don’t see why I should be shielding the organisation from this level of disappointment from so many staff.”

Who’s telling the truth then? Bedwetter or the unions and councillors? One way to find out could be to read Bedwetter’s formal “best practice in consultation” document. It’s published with cabinet papers about the outsourcing and is scheduled to be rubberstamped by the Reverend and his Labour Cabinet next week.

Bedwetter’s consultation report is just one page long and while it goes into some detail about the process Bedwetter used to consult staff (which didn’t include using interpreters), there’s no mention anywhere about what staff actually said about his proposed transfer.

It’s an odd omission for a consultation report to have no content. It also means Bedwetter is unable to provide a shred of evidence, despite having apparently canvassed their opinion in a month long formal process, to back his claim that staff he has subsequently tried to gag are in favour of his plan.

Who should we believe? Notorious Director of Workforce, John “Bedwetter” Walsh, called out at the meeting as a liar and unable to produce written evidence from his own consultation for his self-serving claims, or councillors and elected trade union officials who directly represent the workers in question?

Chair of the meeting, limp Rees brown-noser and University of Bristol PhD perpetual student prat, John “Welly” Wellington, did manage to apologetically squeak at one point, “I don’t think you’re a liar John.”

Although the Labour Councillor for Windmill Hill, who’ll be quitting in May after a futile term of unquestioning loyalty to the Reverend’s right wing crap, didn’t offer any explanation as to why Bedwetter had attended his meeting and talked his typical brand of bollocks.

But let’s leave the last word to professional Lib Dem gobshite Councillor Gary “Hefty” Hopkins who told Welly’s HR meeting, “I don’t believe a word of what’s been presented to us by the management side.”

BUILDING OUR WAY OUT OF THE HOUSING CRISIS?

Jessop Way

Plans and sales literature have been published of the new 3 bedroom homes at William Jessop Way, Hartcliffe near Bridge Learning Campus that we are now invited to call ‘Jessop Park’. According to the blurb these homes are “ideal for first time buyers and growing families”. And the cost to first time buyers and growing families” in south Bristol? A snip at just £307,950!

The development by Keepmoat Homes is on former council land and the Reverend Rees gushed to the press when his plans for the land were announced: “We are delighted to be involved with a project that addresses one of our city’s most urgent priorities – building more housing, particularly affordable homes in areas that need it the most. We want to make Bristol a city where everyone has a safe roof over their heads, and we cannot do that without developments like this.”

Look out for much more ridiculously expensive “developments like this” on council land when the council’s housing company Goram Homes in partnership with private developers gets building near you.

You’ll be delighted!

SCHRODINGER’S CONSULTANT

THE EMPEROR'S NEW WAGES

Chaos at a Bristol City Council HR meeting today as hapless HR Director Mark “Bashar” Williams cheerily announced that Town Hall Fat Cat Colin “Head Boy” Molton, our very own semi-detached senior officer on £1,500 a day, no longer worked for Bristol City Council.

This was shortly before Tory Boy councillor Richard “Bunter” Eddy described Bashar and his boss, Head of Workforce, John “Bedwetter” Walsh’s statements on outsourcing cleaning and security staff as “worthy of Dr Goebbels and the Third Reich”!

Alas, Head Boy’s surprise disengagement from the second highest paid local authority job in the UK was short-lived after a member of the public asking questions about Head Boy’s whopping £274k pa pay packet piped up that Molton had attended  a Temple Quarter and St Philip’s Marsh Cross Party Working Group on 22 January!

This left Bashar to foolishly mumble that “this is the information I have been given”. While who provided such an outright lie to Bashar – peering out from Zoom beside his boss, notorious liar, Head of Workforce, John Walsh – to feed to a committee of elected councillors was not made clear. 

Irish Tory councillor, Paula O’Rourke who creeps and crawls around the Counts Louse under Green branding made a feeble attempt to ride to Bashar’s rescue explaining that she chairs the Temple Quarter and St Philip’s Marsh Cross Party Working Group and that everything was above board and Head Boy was being paid by “projects”!

So that’s all right then. All sorted. The man earning the second highest local authority salary in the UK does not work for Bristol City Council, he’s just paid by them while doing their work?

HISTORY COMMISSION’S OWN GOAL HELL

tim-cole-v2
Own Goal Cole: let’s hope his taste in history is better than his taste in shirts

What do you get if you combine a committee of snooty academics from the University of Bristol with a committee of time-serving Labour Party Hacks? THE BRISTOL HISTORY COMMISSION!

This ongoing FARCE, set up by the Reverend Rees in the wake of the Colston statue dethroning, has lurched from PR COCK-UP to PR DISASTER and now seems to be aiming to achieve all-out city-wide LAUGHING STOCK status. 

The Commission got off to bad start with lots of people from across the city when its newly appointed Chair – who no one had ever heard of – University of Bristol History Professor Tim “OWN GOAL” Cole, decided, after a phone call with the CPS over the summer, that his Commission would COLLABORATE with the Avon & Somerset Police and become part of the criminal justice system. 

Own Goal, we learn, UNILATERALLY made the dubious decision – of questionable academic ethics –  that his commission would be part of the PUNISHMENT for protestors who hauled down the Colston statue and got conditionally cautioned by police for criminal damage. Prof Own Goal agreed to oversee a questionnaire where protestors would set out their reasons for their actions. Remarkably, most members of the commission only learned of Own Goal’s dodgy decision when they read about it in the Guardian on 18 September!

Own Goal’s next brilliant wheeze was to get some interns in to do the commission’s work for them because all these very important people are “TOO BUSY“. Own Goal personally advertised the internships – exclusively for University of Bristol post grads – at £10 PER HOUR funded by his Brigstowe Institute who, we’re told, receive money from, er … Wait for it … the MERCHANT VENTURERS, the city’s loathsome Colston cultists and dodgy statue enthusiasts!

Own Goal’s ad immediately came to the attention of #shitjobwatch, who monitor “very precarious or exploitative University of Bristol jobs”. They described the four internships as a “FIRST CHOICE” example of such practices. What does History Commission member and head of the South West TUC Nigel Costley have to say about that then?

And finally, when is Own Goal going to get off the phone to the Guardian, get his arse in gear and answer the simple set of questions about his commission sent to him last August by the Bristol Radical History Group? 

Has Own Goal got any answers?

LABOUR HOUSING ROW

A row has broken out among Bristol’s Labour councillors over the Reverend Rees’s efforts to freeze council rents this year. The result is that crucial budget papers for the Housing Revenue Account were pulled from a Cabinet meeting at the last minute this week. Could a WAFER THIN voting majority at the Council House mean that the Reverend finally has to take some notice of his long-suffering backbenchers rather the unelected City Office business wankers and evangelicals he usually surrounds himself with?

The Reverend, having already made a song and dance in the local press about his generosity in freezing rents to help the poor, has been left high and dry by these backbenchers. The row directly pitches the LONG TERM VIABILITY of our council housing stock against short term electoral needs. The Reverend and his supporters are keen to push through this freeze believing it will ATTRACT VOTES when elections finally happen. 

Another section of his party is more concerned that the freeze will create a HOLE in the Housing Revenue Account and will affect the council’s ability to build new homes; renovate old homes and meet their targets to retrofit homes to meet climate change targets. The cost of retrofitting, alone, is conservatively estimated at £0.5 BILLION

The £1.8m cost of a freeze for this year reduces the council’s ability to borrow to meet their housing commitments in the future. LESS rental income means LESS ability to borrow money. We’re told that this £1.8m actually amounts to over £50 MILLION less to spend on our council housing over the next 30 years. 

There is also evidence from around the country that other authorities that have not raised enough money through rents have been forced to PRIVATISE their housing stock or seek out private ‘partnerships’ to support building and renovation plans.

As well as an effort to hoover up votes with POPULIST PLOYS, is the Reverend also trying to further lever open the door for a CORPORATE ASSAULT on our council housing through his mysterious City Leap public-private partnership programme that’s been eyeing up our city’s council housing assets?

Watch this space.

Solidarity with the Colston Statue Defendants – 1st Court Date 25th January – Events Online All Day

From Alternative Bristol

Solidarity with the Colston Statue Topplers – Events & Background

4 Defendants face their 1st date in Court on charges of criminal damage, for their alleged involvement of the toppling of the 125 year old statue of Edward Colston, whilst a huge Black Lives Matter protest  was taking place in Bristol on the 7th June 2020. Many hundreds of protesters participated in the toppling of the Colston statue, and then dragging it to the harbour before sending Colston to swim with the fishes – the same fate as that experienced by so many enslaved Africans on the transatlantic slaving ships, a business the slave-trader and former Tory MP Edward Colston, and others, got very rich from.

What’s On?
Initial plans by campaign organisers & supporters for a solidarity protest on 25th January outside Bristol Magistrates Court (Court info) have been scuppered by covid-19. The risk of infection; the high likelihood of dispersal orders and fixed penalty notices (£200) or arrests for supporters; and fines of upto £10,000.00 for identified organisers; and the subsequent media frenzy about ‘illegal’ protests would distract from the Defendant’s case – it should be noted this is just a Plea Hearing, where defendants plead Not Guilty, or Guilty, and if Not Guilty a Trial is expected to follow, possibly as far away as 2022?! So events have now moved online:

9.30-10.00am: see this FB eve – a 30minute teach-in & spoken words on a livestream, with an 8 minute silence at 9.45am to remember the 84,500 people whose kidnap and enslavement Colston helped to fund and organise during his time with the Royal Africa Company. As well as taking time to celebrate the enslaved whose many rebellions brought about abolition.

9.30am-10.00pm
 – please share solidarity photos and post to the FB Event or to your social media using #GladColstonsGone, saying why you’re glad Colston’s statue is no longer on our streets. And keep checking back for updates/more details. Feel free to drop banners, paint murals/slogans, go chalking, or just do your thing – DIY.

7-10pm
: Livestream of local films via the Cube Cinema from 7-9pm, then panel discussion 9-10pm with Lawrence Hoo, Michael Jenkins and Rob Mitchell – chaired by Councillor Cleo Lake.
Info & tickets (free but donations to campaign welcome!) via Cube Cinema or BRHG.

Background: Campaigners in Bristol have spent years trying to tell the truth about Colston, his kind, and their murderous business practices. They have worked to bring an end to the continued memorialisation of Colston in Bristol – the statue, paintings & other monuments, buildings, schools, pubs, street names etc promoting his name are a continued expression of racist oppression & exploitation, perpetuated by Bristol’s white wealthy elites. Because of their classist and racist beliefs, Bristol’s elites, led by the Society of Merchant Venturers (articles), have resisted attempts at change & ignored factual challenges – being forced into only minor reforms & adjustments…although since 7th June Closton’s name has disappeared at a rapid rate! The protesters on 7th June clearly decided Colston’s towering racist presence could continue no more, and pulled him down. Well done we say – We All Did It!

For the 25 January & after – get ready & get active – here’s some local links that will provide you with all the info, news & comment you need to get upto speed & involved:
Countering Colston campaign –  FB / twitter – @CounterColston / useful links for more reading
All Black Lives Bristol (organisers of 7th June and later protests) – Instagram / FB /
Bristol Radical History Group – articles on Slavery & Resistance / articles on Colston / twitter – @BrisRadHis
Alternative Bristol – articles on Colston & protests / FB / twitter – @Alt_Bristol_
Bristol Cable – articles related to Colston / article looking at reparatory justice
Bristol Post – articles over several years on Colston & related issues – mainly by journalist Tristan Cork
Byline Times (8 June article) – 12 Facts that Prove Black Lives Don’t Matter in Britain
St Paul’s Carnival – scroll down this link here for history resources
The Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership – research and analysis of slave-owners & how they benefitted from compensation when slavery abolished
Bristol Defendant Solidarity – Know Your Rights – info & legal support for protesters

Rotten Comrades: Unfair Dismissal Appeals and Other Problems For Our Class

By The Dwarf

It is commonly recognised that appeals to government bodies very often help. As a rule of thumb I would say appealing loss of benefit or a parking ticket should give you around a fifty-fifty chance (should you have some sort of excuse), so you may as well have a punt. I say usually, that is if you appeal anywhere else but at Bristol City Council where properly mandated, democratically elected bodies no longer seem to be able to action their decisions. We’ve seen this recently with the special education needs appeals but we also see it in both Councillor and Mayoral inability to control council officers.

Controlling council officers is a political problem because, for reasons of national policy, council officers have the right to (effectively) water down possibly loony council decision-making. Sort of. Essentially. So it is quite hard for the Mayor to sack someone if there is a democratic decision to do something and nobody puts that into action properly. This decentralised style of administration trickles down further to organisations such as local authority controlled schools who have the right to do whatever they damn well please while being funded by us.

So, when a struggling single mother with a handful of a child (perhaps with profound learning difficulties) wins her appeal to have a better specialist education for her child, the school refuses to obey the decision, making the whole process a hopeless waste of time. What then happens, the appeals team try and gauge what the school will accept before giving up and making some sort of feeble, virtue-signalling non-decision.

“So, Brother D,” you might ask – “what has this got to do with the unions?” Well, I’m glad you asked. First off, this is about class, both for struggling mums and dads in an uncaring society, but also about having a functioning, municipal democracy. And secondly, this trickle down of irresponsibility and intransigence is affecting the staff too.

The appeals committee which hears dismissal appeals from our staff, has for some time given up trying to reinstate staff who are innocent or who are naughty but don’t quite deserve sacking; but do deserve to be given a kick up the backside before being told to get back to work. I’m not saying the odd one or two haven’t charmed their way out of the ‘long walk’, but the majority haven’t, in my and the other comrade’s experience. I used to be quite happy, back in the day, making the usual ritual protest while the member got the dressing down of their lives, taking comfort in the fact that we’ve managed to avoid another walk of shame to the dole office (or worse). But HR (you know the weaponised, smiling assassins I wrote about last time) now make it clear such actions are impossible.

Since then, the kindly old gentleman chairman, firebrand eco-warrior and old class warrior we normally get invited to address, offer the staff member a nice cup of tea, a bit of sympathy and a biscuit, before tapping the member on the shoulder and showing him the door. I preferred the kick up the arse and reinstatement.

More recently, the tea and biscuits have also gone.

Which makes the whole process a complete, bollocking, waste of time, because we then go off and win a tribunal. The point of the appeal is to set right unfair dismissals: they should consider the matter with open minds and bravely overrule, if that is the just decision, regardless of the pressure from HR. It does beg the question what sort of feedback auditing there is to the committee so that it can review how well it has done.

There is more to say about HR and its militant strategy of getting people out the door regardless of the settlement cost, and just how motivated they are in doing this, but I’ll leave it to next time.

Solidarity,
Brother D