Wednesday, 24 September 2014


Please support our Thunderclap by clicking on the picture above and sharing through Facebook and Twitter.


Agilisys have told the council that they can make savings by transferring what are described as Front Office (financial and transactional) and Business Support (admin) functions, and then transforming those functions by standardising and rationalising them, using technology and automation. Their proposal is to create a centralised Customer Services and Business Support Hub working across the council, rather than for individual directorates and teams. Within that hub they plan to create a specialist business support team, along with teams responsible for particular business support functions. Agilisys want to locate this hub centrally in one council building, and they want staff to access business support through a phone call or over the intranet – very much like we request ICT services currently. In UNISON’s view this proposal is bad for the staff transferring, because many of them are likely to be made redundant not long after the transfer, once Agilisys start transforming services – Price Waterhouse Cooper’s report suggested that the council could make £2.4 million of savings from about 70 full-time job losses. But it is also bad for the staff remaining, because we think it’s likely that professional staff will find themselves doing much more of their own admin, because in some cases it will be quicker to do that than fill out an e-form. Finally, we think the move to accessing many council services online will impact badly on some of our most vulnerable service users, and at this point none of these people, and the organisations that support them, have been consulted.


Some UNISON members will have received letters from North Somerset Council telling them that their job is likely to be TUPE transferred to Agilisys, if the council vote to approve the contract extension on 21st October. Some UNISON members will have received letters from the council informing them that their job and team will be reviewed and restructured, and they may end up on the TUPE transfer list. UNISON’s advice is that all our members who have received these letters should respond with their comments to the email address provided on the letters, and copy into your emails. You need to give your views on what will be the impact on you and your service of transferring to Agilisys, and you need to talk to your manager if you think you shouldn’t be on the TUPE list. You also need to start attending the UNISON members meetings listed in this newsletter, and attend our lobby on 21st October.


Staff who remain with the council will have their jobs and services transformed, with the possibility of jobs being down-graded as job families are brought in, along with more redundancies. Agilisys have been very good at using new technology such as Itrent and Agresso to give more work to council staff, and their plans for the future use of technology, along with staff accessing business support via the intranet, is likely to lead to increased workloads for the staff that remain at the council. In addition pretty much every team at the council will be restructured if they lose their Business Support and Front Office staff to Agilisys. Agilisys are also being asked to help the council with wider transformation projects, including sharing services with other councils and the Integration of Health and Social Care – these are all likely to lead to further job losses and/or privatisations. You also need to start attending the UNISON members meetings listed in this newsletter, and attend our lobby on 21st October.


UNISON sent out a special edition of our newsletter back in March to alert members to the dangers of the council’s Transformation Programme, including the possibility of more jobs and services being transferred to Agilisys. We have been running regular members meetings at both main locations since. We balloted our members on the Transformation Programme, with the result being 75% wanted to campaign against privatisations and redundancies, 20% would like redundancy, and 5% were prepared to transfer to Agilisys if it meant saving their job.

UNISON Reps have attended and spoken at the council’s Agilisys Contract working group on19th June, 1st and 16th September. A group of UNISON members lobbied the council meeting on 6th May, and a UNISON Rep spoke at the meeting. We also worked with opposition councillors and were successful at getting an amendment added to the Agilisys Contract Report – this amendment instructed officers to also look at other options, including an in-house plan, as well as outsourcing jobs and services to Agilisys. So far UNISON has seen little evidence that an in-house plan is being put together – this goes against the instructions of councillors, and UNISON continues to press for this to happen.

UNISON has signed an agreement with the council to allow us access to at least some of the Agilisys documentation. We have submitted our comments to the council officer in charge of the Agilisys evaluation, and also submitted a report to the Agilisys Contract working group. We have clearly told the council that in our view the transformation of Front Office and Business Support functions can be done in-house with much less risk to the council, and that because we know that some of our members would like redundancy, that the council can manage any job losses through voluntary redundancy, retirement, redeployment and retraining. We have also suggested that the council look at directorate hubs rather than a centralised hub, as this avoids the risk of losing specialist knowledge.

UNISON has been successful at persuading the council to postpone their vote on the Agilisys contract extension from 23rd September to 21st October. We attended the Agilisys Contract working group on 1st September and argued that the evaluation was being rushed through and that if the councillors voted on 23rd September they would be voting without knowing precisely what the terms of the contract extension would be. UNISON Reps will be attending and speaking at the Council meeting on 21st October, when councillors will be asked to vote to approve the extension to the Agilisys contract.


We need all UNISON members and all council staff to join the lobby of the council meeting from 5.30 pm on 21st October outside the old Town Hall in Weston super Mare, so that when councillors vote they can see that their staff don’t want their jobs and services transferred to Agilisys. Currently many of the councillors have concerns about extending the contract with Agilisys, particularly because of the proposal to transfer staff and then transform, rather than transform internally. In 2010 when councillors voted to approve the original contract with Agilisys, very few of the staff directly affected attended our lobby, and so the councillors thought that staff didn’t care whether or not their jobs and services were transferred to Agilisys. This time you need to show them that you do care, so be there!


We also need you to come to meetings to stay up to date on what’s happening with the council’s Transformation Programme:

18th September at 12.30 pm at Town Hall, Hutton Suite
30th September at 12.30 pm at Castlewood, room 2.07
2nd October at 12.30 pm at Town Hall, room 1.05
21st October at 5.30 pm outside the Town Hall – UNISON Lobby
22nd October at 12.30 pm at Castlewood, room 1.08
4th November at 12.30 pm at Town Hall, Rickford room
20th November at 1 pm at Castlewood, room 2.07
4th December at 12.30 pm at Town Hall, Rickford room
11th December at 12.30 pm at Castlewood, room 2.07

Thursday, 18 September 2014

NHS workers vote yes to strike action and action short of strike action

UNISON’s NHS workers, including nurses, occupational therapists, porters, paramedics, medical secretaries, cooks and healthcare assistants have voted yes to industrial action in a dispute over pay in England.

NHS staff have been denied a pay rise following the Government’s decision to ignore the independent PRB recommendation. This means 60% of NHS staff and 70% of nurses won’t get a pay rise for the next two years.

The result of the ballot is as follows.

Are you prepared to take part in a strike?

•YES: 68%
•NO: 32%

Are you prepared to take part in action short of strike action?

•YES: 88%
•NO: 12%

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said:

"This Government's treatment of NHS workers has angered them and this anger has now turned into action. Refusing to pay them even a paltry 1% shows what the Government really thinks about its health workers. Inflation has continued to rise since 2011 and the value of NHS pay has fallen by around 12%.

"We know health workers don’t take strike action lightly or often. The last action over pay was 32 years ago. But we also know a demoralized and demotivated workforce isn’t good for patients.

"If we move into industrial action we will work with NHS employers to minimize the impact on patients. But its not too late for Jeremy Hunt to act to avoid this and We repeat our offer to the Government to negotiate with us. To date the Secretary of State has refused to meet with health unions to negotiate pay."

Earlier this year, the Government decided to ignore the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendations and instead give a 1% non-consolidated increase only to staff at the top of their incremental scale. Because the award is non-consolidated it will not count towards pension entitlements or shift pay and will be wiped away at the end of March 2016 meaning wages will go back to their April 2013 level.

Jeremy Hunt is persisting in the pretence that he is giving staff a pay rise when in truth he has imposed a continued pay freeze for most NHS staff in England, with a small flat rate sum for around 40% of staff.

There are 10 unions balloting in the NHS over pay and we will now be coordinating with them over the date and type of action we will take.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

North Somerset Council Scrutiny of Agilisys Contract Extension - Councillors vote against excluding the public from a public meeting!

North Somerset UNISON Reps attended North Somerset Council's Community and Corporate Organisation Policy & Scrutiny Panel, where councillors were due to discuss the Agilisys Contract working group report, and receive a presentation on the council's evaluation of the Agilisys offer, along with details of an in-house plan outlining what the council could do internally to transform services, and what savings could be made so that councillors could compare that to the Agilisys offer to ensure value for money. We had requested to speak at the meeting, because the council's proposal to transfer more jobs and services to the private sector contractor Agilisys will, in our view, have a detrimental impact on the staff transferring, as many of them are likely to be made redundant once transferred to Agilisys. In addition it is our view that the transfer of front office and business support staff to Agilisys will also have a negative impact on service provision both for the residents of North Somerset and the staff at the council who face having their teams split apart and even greater workloads as admin staff are taken out and transferred to Agilisys.

We had previously submitted a paper to the Agilisys Contract working group, outlining some of our issues with extending the contract for another 5 years and transferring more jobs and services. These include: the lack of consultation with users of council services particularly around the transition to mainly online access to many council services, the risks associated with transferring admin staff who are so crucial to the smooth running of all teams at the council, the loss of the specialist knowledge of the transferred staff, the redundancies which Agilisys are likely to make, Agilisys' requirement for the council to provide them with enough space in council buildings to meet their job and rental income commitments and the current issues with Agilisys Westminster City Council staff being on the second floor of the Town Hall because there's no space in the 3rd floor call centre, the loss of the council's apprenticeship scheme, and the lack of an in-house plan setting our how we can transform services internally with less risk, and with equivalent or greater savings. We re-iterated some of these concerns at today's Scrutiny Panel.

At the Scrutiny Panel councillors were advised by officers to vote to exclude members of the press and public, including UNISON Reps, from what is normally a public meeting on the grounds of commercial confidentiality - that is the presentation on the Agilisys Contract negotiations apparently contained information which councillors were advised may affect the extension of the contract. Councillors present at the Scrutiny Panel quite sensibly voted against this (6 to 4 against with a number of abstentions), and the meeting continued as a public meeting, while the presentation was given - although all present were asked not to divulge the information once they had left the meeting. It was then a great surprise to UNISON how short and uninformative the presentation actually was, and with only a very small amount of financial information. The only reason we can think that they did not want us, or other members of the public, to see the presentation is that it made clear that no work has been done on looking at how services can be transformed internally, as instructed by councillors at their meeting on 6th May. We think that North Somerset councillors should be concerned that council officers have not followed their instructions. We also think that North Somerset residents should be very worried by the secrecy around this contract extension, secrecy which has existed right from the beginning when the contract was awarded and has continued since when UNISON had to go through the Information Commissioner to get the council to release the Detailed version of KPMG's review of the Agilisys contract. The public may not have been excluded from this meeting as officers had advised, but the only published document for this meeting was the report of the Agilisys Contract working group. The  presentation from today's Scrutiny Panel  has not been made available publicly.

Almost 200 council staff have already been issued with letters from the council advising them that if councillors vote to approve the Agilisys contract extension they will either be TUPE transferred to Agilisys, or have their service redesigned and then transferred to Agilisys. North Somerset UNISON will continue to campaign against transferring any more jobs and services to Agilisys, and will continue to press the council to look seriously at transforming services internally. It is our view that this can be done, at less risk to the council and council service users, and making equivalent if not greater savings. Why allow a private contractor to take on jobs and services to make savings, which will be reduced by the profit that a private company has to make to satisfy its shareholders? Why not instead make the savings in house, and in that way keep all the savings for ourselves to invest in excellent services for the people of North Somerset? It's really quite simple - private companies should not be making profits out of public services. UNISON members will lobby the council meeting on 21st October when councillors will vote on whether to award the contract extension.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Agilisys Contract Working Group Report to Scrutiny Panel for 16th September

The Agilisys Contract Working group, who have been meeting over the past few months to scrutinise the Agilisys Contract negotiations will submit a report to the council's Community and Corporate Organisation Policy & Scrutiny Panel on 16th September. UNISON Reps attended this working group on two occasions. On 1st September we submitted our own concerns to the working group - we cannot publish the document here because of a confidentiality agreement we signed with the council, but the working group report can be found at this link:

Saturday, 6 September 2014

People's March for the NHS

After 300 miles in 3 weeks the People's March for the NHS, led by the Darlo Mums arrived in London. At the rally in Trafalgar Square we heard some brillient speakers including the Mums, Owen Jones and Andy Burnham, as well as some great music from the Bristol NHS Choir, Question and Billy Bragg. Here's some photos.

All the video coverage is here:

More information on the march at:

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

TRANSFORM, DON'T TRANSFER! - Lobby North Somerset Council on 21st October (please note change of date from 23rd September)

North Somerset UNISON's submission to the Agilisys Contract working group on 1st September is in part responsible for North Somerset Council's decision to postpone the vote to approve the Agilisys Contract extension from 23rd September to 21st October, when a special Council meeting will be called immediately after the already scheduled Executive meeting. The precise time is to be confirmed, but we need all UNISON members at the council to attend our lobby at 5.30 pm on 21st October.

North Somerset Council are planning to transfer more jobs and services to the private company Agilisys who are contracted by the council to run support services. They are specifically looking at transferring staff who have either a front office or business support function as part of their job. These staff are then likely to face redundancy soon after the transfer as Agilisys start to transform services. Council staff that remain will also see their jobs and services restructured as a result, and are also likely to find their workloads increasing when they lose their admin support. Agilisys are also being asked to work with the council on sharing services with other councils and the integration of health and social care. The proposal also involves a massive change to the way North Somerset citizens will access council services - mainly online access, and yet council service users haven't been consulted.

UNISON have told that council that we think services can be transformed in-house, at less risk to the council, and with equivalent if not greater savings. We also think that the council can manage any job losses through voluntary redundancy, retirement, redeployment and retraining. We will be  lobbying the councillors on 21st October from 5.30 pm as they go into the council chamber. We will be urging them to keep council services in house - our message is TRANSFORM, DON'T TRANSFER. Please join us if you can.