Difficult Times, Difficult Decisions

As you can imagine the LAS UNISON Branch and I get emails and reports from representatives on a daily basis raising concerns and issues from members.  That is our job.  Working within the LAS can be difficult at times and not everything goes to plan (I know a lot of you are thinking that is an understatement!). The Union does not have a magic wand of course and sometimes we have to make difficult decisions. That is our job also.

All our hard working representatives will agree the old adage that ‘you can’t please everyone’ is certainly true in our sphere of responsibility but we do try and reach the right decisions in the best interests of the majority and a lot of the time, I hope, the whole.

The Union is the only organisation we have to look after and protect our interests at work . There are rough seas ahead.

Just to update you on a few issues I know are concerning members.

  • The loss of the South London Healthcare Patient Transport Services (PTS) Contract: meetings between the PTS staff and Savoy Ventures are being arranged. We believe these will take the form of  one – to – one individual meetings. Gary Edwards (Senior Sector Rep) is leading for the Branch regarding Unison PTS members. The General Manager of  Human Resources at Savoy Ventures rang me yesterday after reading a previous blog. We exchanged views on a number of subjects regarding Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations(TUPE) and the transfer of the contract. She offered reassurances to the union about the treatment of staff and the process they will use to speak to our members, and I explained Unison’s political position vis a vis private companies in general within the NHS. This was a very helpful conversation. Unison members will still be Unison members after the TUPE transfer and we have a right and a duty to carry on representing them.
  • Disciplinary and suspensions: the names and reasons for suspension is confidential but the number of suspensions are down for all staff groups. After a meeting with senior management and the hard work of Unison senior sector reps we believe a different approach to this issue can be agreed.
  • Blankets and equipment: this has been a frustrating  issue for our front line members  over long periods but we now think, after linking up with logistics, Assistant Directors of Operations (ADOs), Ambulance Operation Managers (AOMs) and other relevant managers, our senior sector reps,station reps and health & safety reps can make headway. Tim Stephens (Unison Senior Sector Rep) has played a major part in bringing people together and I thank him. As I said in my last blog if anyone has an idea about how to solve ‘the blanket issue’ please send them in.

I will be in a better position to update on the progress of the Emergency Care Practitioner (ECP) re-organisation and the Health & Safety Partnership Agreement in the coming weeks.

I attended a meeting this week of the Unison Health Service Group Executive. We were given a further briefing on the Coalition Government’s White Paper Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS.

If this is not a blueprint for the rapid wholesale dismantling of the National Health Service as we know it (publicly funded, publicly owned, democratically accountable) then Nye Bevan was wrong when he wrote in his 1952 book ‘In Place Of Fear’ :

“Society becomes more wholesome, more serene, and spiritually healthier, if it knows that its citizens have at the back of their consciousness the knowledge that not only themselves, but all their fellows, have access, when ill, to the best that medical skill can provide. But private charity and endowment, although inescapably essential at one time, cannot meet the cost of all this. If the job is to be done, the State must accept financial responsibility.”

I do not think he was wrong. Millions of people in our country do not think he was wrong. Of course change happens and change can be good, there is always room for improvement – but this White Paper isn’t change, this is ideological destruction.

The Union will keep all members updated and there is information and links on our website.

Eric Roberts

Branch Secretary.