Monday, 2 June 2014

Your Choice Barnet - Driving low paid staff into poverty.

I received notice today that there has been a strike ballot by Your Choice Barnet care staff. Your Choice Barnet (YCB) is part of the Barnet Group, a 100% owned trading arm of Barnet Council. The Council decided it would be a good idea to outsource adult social care. As a result they handed responsibility for the service over to the Barnet Homes who already run the Council's social housing. We were told how the new company was going to save council tax payers a fortune by getting lots of other authorities and other social care providers. Surprise surprise it didn't happen and now YCB are in a financial mess having had to borrow £1 million to get then through the cash shortfall when the new business didn't materialise. Rather than stand back and see that this was a flawed strategy they decided to cut wages, not of the most senior staff but of the front line care staff whose numbers have already been cut. So more work and a 9.5% pay cut has led to a strike ballot. many people are anti union claiming they are unrepresentative. Well in this case the strike ballot was 100% in favour of strike action something which is exceptionally rare and which indicate the depth of feeling amongst staff.

We all know someone who is elderly; a relative, a friend, a neighbour. We expect them to receive decent care from staff who are trained and are consistent. Unsurprisingly the pay cut and more hours has led to a number of staff leaving, replaced by agency staff who may only do the job for a few weeks before they move on elsewhere. This is a desperate situation and entirely of the Council's making. Some services cannot be privatised as they are both uneconomic to a profit driven organisation and critical to the welfare of vulnerable individuals. Driving low paid staff into poverty is not the solution

Barnet Council need to do the right thing and quickly. They need to bring the service back in house and run it properly, treating staff fairly and ensuring the vulnerable get a consistently good quality service. That is the only way this situation will be resolved satisfactorily.

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