Senior Unite bureaucrats on manoeuvres with workers’ sellout Slo’ Kev Slocombe as strike date looms over Rees’s bullying culture at City Hall
This just in from Unison Bristol:
Increased pressure on delivery for the Estates Management team (your housing officers) has been coming from the political level. Pressure, in turn, from tenants and associated tenants’ groups has led to a stressed-out team, run-ragged with extra work piled on an already impossible workload.
Impossible targets, a terrible consultation regime and staff not being believed has led to a ballot for strike action supported by both Unite and UNISON.
Yesterday, Unite with a big-wig from Unite head office met with Kevin Slocombe (from the mayor’s office). Management stated in writing that they were representing Unite only and didn’t want anyone else (ie, Unison) coming.
We have, up until this point, maintained a single-status approach when bargaining with the employer so if this alliance is only one-way we will abandon joint-working and go it alone with everything else in the council.
We have already made this decision about joint-working at Bristol Waste (subsequent to this announcement by Unite) but it will take a while to disentangle ourselves at Bristol City Council. Lay stewards from all unions work well together and it will take time and some getting used to.
In the meantime we are arranging a meeting with Kevin and management but without any big-wigs.
We were uneasy joining a meeting with union political officers and politicians – what has politics got to do with management stressing their staff out? – but there you go.
At the moment strike action is tabled for 21 October for both Unite and UNISON unless the members decide to accept whatever comes out of these meetings.
Bristol City Council’s Estate Management Team of around 60 staff working in Landlord Services are going on strike after a union ballot that received a 70 per cent response rate and a 90 per cent vote for strike action.
The main gripe of the workers going on strike is the managerial abuse, contempt and incompetence they have had to put up with over the years, based on consistent workplace issues such as under-staffing, high stress, casework overload and ever fewer resources being assigned to their essential work with the most vulnerable. Management have consistently ignored, downplayed and gaslighted staff, forcing strike action as a last resort.
Responsibility rests with bullshit job artist Donald “Bastard” Graham, Director of Homes and Landlord Services, paid £280,000 pa via an interim contract for his inessential “work” at taxpayer expense until recently. The scumbag, now on a secretive city council fixed term contract of unknown value, appears to have been given this vast sum from the Housing Revenue Account to attack essential workers and make their lives intolerable.
We’d also like to call out chief bully Service Manager Fiona “Nurse Ratched” Lester, formerly of Sovereign Housing Association infamy. Let’s not, however, forget the Reverend’s ever-pliable idiot sidekick – Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery Tom “Plasticine Man” Renhard, under whose watch unacceptable management behaviour has flourished.
We’ve also heard of other rumblings elsewhere at the council. Who’s coming out next? Watch this space.
The fight at St Monica Trust against fire and rehire and cuts to pay and conditions continues. Management have refused to meet for negotiations and so the workers have been left with no other option but to stand up for themselves and strike.
Five days of strike action have been announced starting tomorrow, Wednesday 29th June.
* Wednesday 29th June at 7.30am for 24 hours
* Saturday 2nd July at 7.30am for 24 hours* Tuesday 5th July at 7.30am for 24 hours
* Sunday 10th July at 7.30am for 48 hours (ending at 7.30am Tuesday 12th July)
We will be holding pickets on these days which you are encouraged to come along and support. They will run at the 4 homes on each of the strike days at the following times:
* 7:00am – 3:00pm
* 8:00pm – 10:00pm
At these addresses:
* Sandford Station Retirement Village, Sandford, Winscombe, BS25 5AD
* Cote Lane, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, BS9 3TW
* 6 Charlton Rd, Bristol, BS10 6NG
* Trajectus Way, Keynsham, Bristol, BS31 2GL
If you’d like to know where your support is best placed, check out the public pledge sheet and put your name down for some of the slots. Green ones are the best priority to go to then yellow then orange, but your support is welcome at any!
Public day of action – Saturday 2nd July
On Saturday, following the 7am pickets, there is a rally in support of the strikes at the Greenway Centre in Southmead which is a short walk from the Westbury Fields site. We have a Facebook event page with all the info here: Facebook Event
The rally will start at 11:30am in the sports hall with a variety of speakers from the trade union movement including UNISON’s regional secretary, Joanne Kaye. They will give short speeches in support of the action and share stories of other workers who are standing up and fighting. This will be followed by some food.
A minibus with around 15 spaces will be put on to transport members from Sandford Station. Striking members will be prioritised but if you want to be on the reserve list should there be extra space then contact Joshua.firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll let you know if you’ve got a space by the end of the week.
The current cost of living crisis will have an impact on our ability to undertake effective strike action. It’s going to be vital that we’re able to support our members, many of whom are low paid. We have a healthy fighting fund but the more available, the longer and harder we can fight.
Union branches are encouraged to donate to our strike fund. You can make your own request to your branch committee or use this letter from our branch secretaries to make the request. We’d of course welcome donations from any other groups or individuals if you can afford to. Donations can be made by transfer to the following details with the reference SMT and will be split between the two branch hardship funds.
Account name: UNISON South West Account number: 49021079 Sort Code: 60-83-01
Care workers at the St Monica Trust, the notorious Merchant Venturer-run care home operation, have announced the dates of their first wave of strikes:
They will be on strike for 24 hours on June 29, July 2 and July 5
They will be on strike for 48 hours 10 – 11 July
The workers are going on strike as the management of the care homes attempt to ‘fire and rehire’ them by ripping up existing contracts and replacing them with worse ones. The wealthy Venturers plans include substantial cuts to pay by reducing night and weekend enhancements; slashing weekly hours and removing paid breaks.
Details on picket lines, strike funds etc to follow
Victory to the workers! Down with the capitalist scum Merchant Venturers pigs!
BRISTOL SKUM COLLECTIVE, SF PRESENTS, WRONG WAY PROMO, THE LION, THE CHELSEA INN AND THE PLOUGH INN jointly presents….
‘Fuck The Jubilee’ 3 day bank holiday punk festival!
THURSDAY 2 JUNE SF PRESENTS & EAT SHIT PROMO * CIRCLE NONE * LUVDUMP * SOCIAL EXPERIMENT * DRUNKEN MARKSMAN * MUTILATED STATE At the Lion (formally Red Lion) £5 on the door.
FRIDAY 3 JUNE THE CHELSEA INN Presents… * SLOW FACTION * DISORDER * MONEY * CHINESE BURN * COCAINE & more mayhem…
SATURDAY 4 JUNE BRISTOL SKUM COLLECTIVE & WRONG WAY PROMO Presents all dayer at the Plough Inn *4.15 – 4.45pm : SYSTEM RESET *5.15 – 5.45 : VIRUS *6.05 – 6.35 : SYSTEM OF SLAVES *6.55 – 7.25 : KISS ME KILLER *7.45 – 8.30 : RITA LYNCH BAND *9.00 – 9.45 : SPANNER *10.15 – 11.00 : P.A.I.N. + 11pm onwards * THE POINTLESS SISTERS DJ SET
Please share and invite your mates and fuck the jubilee!!!
Around two-hundred Bristol City council staff will be transferring to the Teckal company Bristol Waste on 1 June (Bristolian Passim). UNISON remains wholly against it.
After failing to persuade the Labour administration not to go ahead with this, UNISON and the trades unions Unite and GMB have tried to persuade the two employers to adopt a position colloquially known as TUPE++. That is TUPE with further protections based on the protections they had previously enjoyed.
The employers have refused all our requests. The decision to not meet us half way or make any concessions at all pretty much sums up not just UNISON’s relationship with the employers but the other unions’ as well.
In previous statements we pointed out that ‘Terms and Conditions’ are only some of the rights held by staff and that other rights written into policies will not transfer. So we have just been told that the rights within the ‘Code of Practice on Investigations’ (if you remember the Greens tabled a question to full council about it recently) will not transfer to Bristol Waste. So the right (in black-and-white) to see evidence against you in an investigation before you are interviewed is removed.
The matrix for what you will and won’t receive is quite complicated and although we are not saying you won’t receive fairness at Bristol Waste, we can’t see any compensatory policy for our staff for the removal of such a right.
Nor will the sickness policy transfer. How many absences someone can have before being dismissed will be based on Bristol Waste and not BCC policy. The Bristol Waste policy is based on the’ Bradford Factor‘ which we don’t think has a very good reputation.
We have been accused of not knowing what we are talking about (even by the press) and we will take no pleasure in saying ‘we told you so’, which we expect to be saying often in the months to come.
We discussed ‘measures’ transferring to Bristol Waste and we failed to persuade them to make any changes at all. We agreed that Bristol Waste is ACAS compliant. but we see ACAS compliancy as an absolute minimum a civilised society should tolerate. We are dismayed to find that the powers-that-be find ACAS minimums to be satisfactory.
Our call to our members in cleaning to contact us has had very little response. We can’t go forward without consulting with you, so please get in touch if you want us to take action. Our response from security has been pretty good and we will be organising further action with you – if you give us your consent – in the future.
Labour’s long-term candidate for Hengrove and Whitchurch Park has been ruthlessly dumped by the regional party bureaucrats for requesting support as a deaf person!
Here’s the comments posted to Facebook by the former candidate, Lee Starr-Elliot on this latest Labour row
*Statement to explain my no longer standing as your local candidate! *
I am taking the time to write this to explain why after 3 years I am no longer your candidate for Labour! After applying to be a candidate back in 2018, going through the candidate approval process including checks, a panel interview organised by the Bristol Labour Local Campaign Forum (LCF) and endorsement by Bristol Labour members, I was selected by my local ward as their candidate in 2019.
I was very proud of this as I had the best interests of the ward at heart and wanted to bring back a sense of strong local community and ownership to the area, something I’ve felt has been lacking as our current councillors seem to prefer to play party politics rather than focus on the needs of local people.
However, after the pandemic hit and the 2020 elections were delayed, I lost running mates one by one due to personal or work-related issues. In the meantime I continued to move forward, founding the BS14 Community Support Group on Facebook, which has brought together local people, allowing us to help and support each other directly or by sharing helpful information. It made me proud to see BS14 come together in this way and I thank everyone who made it a success and hope it continues.
Most people are aware that I am Deaf. In previous elections, central government has provided the Enable fund to support the access needs of disabled people so that they can run for public office. The government withdrew this for these elections. I sought support from my Regional office, in line with their duties under the Equality Act, for example to provide a BSL interpreter for local, regional and national events and online training. I’m sad to say my request was not even acknowledged.
This led me to filing an official complaint, which has yet to be resolved, despite having the made the complaint nearly 5 months ago! When I asked for assistance with phone banking I was fobbed off and told to get people to volunteer! This put me at a serious disadvantage as many other people across all parties were able to phonebank, leaving me as the only one unable to do so, as by this stage the other candidates had withdrawn.
As people may understand, I became increasingly frustrated and angry that I was being discriminated this way and I took to social media to call out bad practices and condemn the leadership for failures in supporting members. Instead, they were busy suspending members for supporting the local members’ right to debate and offer solidarity to the suspended previous leader of the party, Jeremy Corbyn!
While all this was happening, the regional office of the Labour Party was preventing constituency party groups from carrying out democratically agreed actions such as supporting food banks with financial donations from the members’ fund. Regional staff even went as far as suspending the AGM of a nearby constituency party and announcing they would run it months later – allowing them time to install their preferred members into positions. When they eventually ran the AGM it was shambolic and clearly designed to exclude members’ voices!
Similarly, the selection of the West of England Mayoral candidate was decided undemocratically, with the previous candidate Lesley Mansell and other left-leaning candidates excluded from the membership ballot by a regional panel. This has clearly backfired on the local party, as members are not happy to campaign for someone who while he was an MP voted for the Iraq War and is clearly against helping people such as students!!
It seems that by standing up for myself against discrimination and calling out where the party is failing nationally and regionally and when it is bullying the membership, this has resulted in the Labour Party refusing to endorse me at the local elections on May 6th. I would like to acknowledge the support of a small group of candidates and supporters who are leading the fight both locally and nationally against actions of politicians from all parties in order to make Bristol and the country better.
I wouldn’t have got this far without them, as the discrimination I’ve faced as a candidate and a person within politics is emotionally breaking. However, I will continue to be as loud as possible and call out actions of councillors and MPs who are not transparent and are not working for the people who voted for them but are instead following the party line. I thank everyone who has supported me and were going to vote for me!
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.