Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fremantle strikes on 20 September

Congratulations to Barnet UNISON for this excellent pictorial report of the visit of Fremantle activists to the TUC. The Fremantle dispute is very much still on – and back on the Labourstart website, as the Internet Service Provider has found the campaign not to be defamatory.

Good luck to the strikers for their next day of strike action on 20 September.

I thought I would share my correspondence with Fremantle Chief Executive, Carole Sawyer, to whom I wrote on 6 September as follows;

“Your conduct in cutting the pay of your workers, sacking Andrew Rogers and seeking to silence your critics is disgraceful.You are clearly not a fit person to be involved in the provision of vital public services to vulnerable people and I very much hope that you will have the decency to consider your position.”

She replied the following day;

“Thank you for your e-mail. Your concerns relate to misinformation and deliberately misleading information on the Labourstart and Unison web pages.

Pay has not been cut – salaries have been frozen for up to 3 years at April 2007 levels
No changes have been made to the pensions – staff continue to be members of the Local Government Pension Scheme and we continue to make employer contributions as set by the actuary (currently over 20%)
The working week for ex LBB staff is unchanged at 36 hours full time equivalent
Occupational sick pay entitlement changed from April 2007 and is now up to 3 months at full pay

The necessary changes are to ensure that the future costs of the services can be met from the resources available. This protects both vulnerable service users and staff by ensuring the continuation of services. The Fremantle Trust is a registered charity (not a private company as alleged by Labourstart).

These are not easy decisions and we spent over a year consulting with staff and unions before any changes were made. Fremantle continues to offer an industry leading pay and benefits package – including enhanced payments for weekend, night and bank holiday working, generous occupational sick pay, protected pensions and pay rates well ahead of the industry norms.

With respect to Mr Rogers he was dismissed for gross misconduct after an extensive investigation and after the panel had spent 5 hours reviewing all the evidence (including that of Mr Rogers and his representative). There is an appeal process which I encourage Mr Rogers to follow – I am not prepared to comment further at this stage as I do not wish to jeopardise this process.”

I sent a further response having checked with Barnet UNISON, as follows;

I am indebted to you for your response but regret that its contents suggest that you have a limited grasp of employee relations issues.

You say that you have not cut the pay of your employees. However a pay freeze is a pay cut in real terms. Also you have reduced enhancements upon which low paid staff working unsocial hours rely for their overall earnings and have reduced annual leave, thereby requiring staff to work more time for no more money (further reducing the hourly rate). Quite how you consider that the allegation of a pay cut is "deliberately misleading" is beyond me.

You say that no changes have been made to pensions. This is at best disingenuous since the changes which you have made will impact upon the pensionable earnings of employees in their last year of service to the future detriment of their pension. If you do not understand this then I strongly recommend that you consider attending some training on the operation of final salary pension schemes.

You say that the working week is unchanged (whereas I believe you originally intended to increase it). However because of the reductions which you have made in enhancements staff are having to work longer hours in order to maintain their earnings, to the detriment of their family and personal lives and to work life balance.

You are pleased to state that occupational sick pay is "now" up to three months at full pay. The standard for local government workers is up to six months at full pay followed by six months at half pay.

It really is neither here nor there that you are a "registered charity" nor that you may be paying above the (appallingly low) "industry norms". You are part of a process whereby services which used to be directly provided by local authorities, and whose staff enjoyed the terms and conditions negotiated for local government workers are now provided by staff whose terms and conditions are less favourable.

You are part of the process of driving down the costs of public service provision at the expense of often low paid workers. I appreciate that you may find this shameful.”

I finished by inviting her to reconsider the statements which she had made, but have heard nothing further for more than a week. If I get a further response I will amend this post to include it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Has Dave P signed the Labour start petition?

But it is increasingly clear that privatised care homes are employing staff on minimum wages who then have to work very long weeks to get a decent wage.How on earth are Local Authorities monitoring the impact on their clients in such a situation -and what do they do about it? Wait for homes to be closed on special orders?