Today we heard on good authority that the trustees of Brighton's Community Base were meeting to push through privatisation plans and redundancies to the staff directly employed there (numbering two or three). Community Base is a charity providing a home for community and voluntary groups in Brighton and Hove and services to the local community. They use income from affordable services, including the provision of office space and the use of meeting rooms, to repay a mortgage on their centrally-located seven floor building. It was also the location of SolFed's national conference earlier this year.
We were informed that plans were being pushed through to make staff redundant and transfer all services to a commercial company by the end of October. If this is true it may also have consequences for service users and groups who use the centre, as well their employees, many of whom have already faced wage cuts in the past year. We joined a snap demonstration called at just a few hours notice, with around 15 local activists from several groups picketing the entrance. When it was discovered the trustees meeting was already in progress, a number of people gained entry to the building and interupted the meeting to question the trustees on the plans. Their responses included:
- Categorical denial there was any plan to privatise or make redundancies
- Insistence staff were consulted on the plans, but didn't turn up (what plans?)
- Claim that 'if we had all the facts' we would understand... the "private" plans they wouldn't disclose
We will investigate this further as the denials are far from satisfactory and our sources reliable. In SolFed's experience of past redundancies it is common to claim 'there are no plans' right up until 'the decision has already been made and we have to deal with it'. Hopefully that won't be the case at Community Base, but trustees should know service users and community activists are watching closely, and Community Base staff should know we will support them in case of redundancies. As we find out more information we will make efforts to share it with both employees of Community Base and those who use the facilities and work in the building.