Sunday, October 22, 2017

McDonalds strike; Policing cuts; Royal Mail dispute; PFI; Venezuela; Thank You Megan & Welcome Sam: SERTUC Council 21.10.17

On Saturday I went to Congress House for a meeting of the South Eastern Trade Union Council (SERTUC) as an UNISON delegate. I haven't been a delegate to this body for some years and was pleased to be there again but sad to note that this was the last meeting for Megan Dobney who is retiring as SERTUC Regional Secretary.

While relatively few people actually enthuse about giving up their Saturday mornings to attend trade union meetings, I have usually (not always) enjoyed SERTUC meetings in the past. This meeting was very good and well worth attending.

The notoriously shy and retiring Chair, Tony Lennon, kept the meeting well in order and moved business on.

Following a video made by UNISON Police Service Group, UNISON delegate, Mark Task, spoke eloquently about the cuts in Policing budget and how in particular we must defeat the recent proposal to get rid of all PCSO officers in Norfolk or else this will happen next everywhere. 

There was a marvellous presentation on the complete and utter PFI rip off, by Helen Mercer and what a future Labour Government should do about it (nationalise the debt).

An inspiring presentation by a young McDonald's worker who had helped organise their first ever strike in the UK last month against poverty pay and bullying. A very brave and inspirational young man, who gives us all not only hope for the future trade union movement but also a kick in the pants that we must organise young people and not just right write them off as being in the "too difficult" box.  Well done to the Bakers Union for taking such a lead. 

The CWU spoke about their dispute with Royal Mail and that despite the legal action taken against them to suspend strike action, they are confident that unless mediation works, then there will be massive and subtained strike action. We were all interested in how they won a 89% Yes vote with a 74% turnout. Fantastic result.

My former Tower Hamlets trade union colleague, Alex Kenny, from the NEU encouraged delegates to support the lobby at Westminster on 24 October against School Cuts. 

Dr Francisco Dominguez from Venezuela Solidarity Campaign gave an update on the terrible attacks they face and how we support the legitimate government against Trump attacks.

The new Regional Secretary, Sam Gurney, (must check with him if there is a Newham Gurney connection?) spoke and thanked Megan for all her work and that she is "Going to be a very tough act to follow!". 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

West Ham Labour Campaign & Social Update

"I hope you can help out and enjoy these political and social events. Don't worry if you have never been knocking on doors for Labour. We will explain things and support you at every stage".

Saturday 21st October; 11.30am; FG Station, E7 0NF; Street Stall; Carel Buxton;; Forest Gate North
Sunday 22 October; 11am; Stratford Station (Westfield entrance); Political Education & Social; Daniel Blaney and ; CLP (Everyone is welcome including friends and family.) London Docklands Museum visit E14 4AL. either bike or tube.

Sunday 22 October; 11am; Nisa Local, 53 Freemasons Rd, E16 3PJ; Canvass; or Najma Saher: Custom House; (Custom House DLR stn closed, use Royal Victoria DLR a 7 min walk)

Monday 23 October;  7.30pm
Newham Labour Group 2018 Fundraising; 7.30pm Newham Labour Group 2018 Fundraising; An evening of live music, entertainment with  fish and chips’ supper (vegetarian option is available) for members to enjoy.  It’s a great opportunity to network and meet Labour party members from across Newham.  Final details of the evening are being finalised but it will include:

* Guest Speaker * Entertainment * Live Music * Traditional British Fish and Chips super (vegetarian option available) * Bar available * Prizes

Places are very limited and bookings are on a strictly first come basis so reserve your seat now. Fish and Chips option is automatic so please indicate clearly if you want the veg option (vegetarian pizza & chips) by email to

(have some dosh ready for some really good auction offers donated by our West Ham MP, Lyn Brown)

Wednesday 25th October, 7:30pm at Theatre Royal Stratford. Newham African Caribbean Network are having Black History Month drinks.
Thursdsay October 26th at 7.30: Newham Compass Adult Social Care - "Quality vs Cash?" East Ham Workingmen's Club, Boleyn Road, E6.

Saturday 28th October; 10.30am; Tesco Express, Stratford High Street, (E15 2NE); Canvassing and leafleting;; Stratford and New Town.

Saturday 28th October Meet at 11:15 for an 11:30 start at the ATL Café, 125 Plaistow Road E15. West Ham ward. organiser tbc. 

Sunday 29th October - Sunday Night Live & Newham Fabians screening docu-portrait of Labour politician Dennis Skinner: 'Nature of the Beast'.  5pm Jerrys Kitchen, E15 click here to register

Friday 3rd November; 7pm; TBC; Social Evening; C.Buxton;; Forest Gate North

Saturday 4 November tbc Thurrock to be confirmed West Hm CLP

Saturday 11 November; 11.30; FG Station E7 0NF; Canvassing and calling on existing members.; Forest Gate Nort

Saturday 11th November, 11.30am - 1.30pm meet outside Custom House Library, Prince Regent Lane E16 3JJ. contact to be confirmed.

Saturday 18th November; 11.30am; FG Rail Station E7 0NF; Canvassing and calling on existing members; R. Tripp;; Forest Gate North

Sunday 19th November; 11.30; Sainsbury’s Local, East Village, (E20 1DB); Canvassing and leafleting;; Stratford and New Town. 

Saturday 25 November. National Campaign Day. To be confirmed

Sunday 26 November 11.00 - 1pm, Custom House meet outside Nisa Local, 53 Freemason Road, E16 3PJ Custom House

Saturday 9 December & Sunday 10 December branch hustings & selections for local Councillor Candidates.

Friday 15 December - Newham Co-operative Party Christmas Social & Centenary Party tbc

Reminder - Branch Labour Link AGM House of Commons Wednesday 25 October 6pm

Reminder - Branch Labour Link AGM House of Commons Wednesday 25 October 6pm to 8pm (followed by social).
Guest Speaker - John Healey MP Shadow Minister for Housing & Planning
All Branch Labour Link (APF) members invited.
Strictly RSVP to - space left

Friday, October 20, 2017

Pay Up Now! – a serious campaign and it’s working, NEC hears

NEC report 18.10.17
"People are getting angry, seeing how much they have lost through seven years of the pay cap, UNISON’s national executive council heard at its meeting in London today.
And that is because of the campaign being run by the union, general secretary Dave Prentis told the meeting.
And he reminded the NEC that the Pay Up Now! campaign has two parts.
These include a political campaign, including rallies and demonstrations around the company and pressure on MPs, culminating in the joint union lobby of parliament the day before, with a rally – which Mr Prentis addressed – in the evening.
And then there is a an industrial campaign.
“It’s a serious campaign and it’s working,” the general secretary said. “We are getting our members more and more to put their heads above the parapet. We are seeking to break a pay policy.”
And that, he said, “is an exercise in power. We’ve got to build up pressure and convince members that it is as important to get a pay rise as it is to keep jobs.”
Mr Prentis also used his general secretary’s report to remind the NEC of a number of recent wins in local disputes, as well as ones taking place.
These included the 20-month Glasgow janitors dispute which won a 6% pay rise for the affected members, and a victory in Salford which saw an 11% increase for social care workers.
And just days before the NEC meeting, teaching assistant members in Durham voted to accept an offer from employers – voting Yes by 62% on 57% turn-out – to end a long running dispute.
As part of its normal procedure of remembering colleagues who have passed away, the NEC opened with a tribute to former general secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe, who died at the beginning of the month.
Dave Prentis paid tribute to “a giant of our movement” and “a close personal friend” who was involved in “the trade union movement and our union, for so many years”.
He regarded his two biggest achievements as winning a statutory minimum wage , which “helped many millions of low paid, mainly women, workers” and the creation of UNISON in 1993.
The NEC also sent condolences to the family of former national secretary Mike Jeram, who died in the summer, and honoured other former staff members and activists, who died recently.
The meeting also:
  • approved the union’s accounts for the first eight months of the year;
  • received an update on work to protect the union’s income under changes to the DOCAS, or check-off system, where members’ subscriptions are deducted from wages, which the Trade Union Act says must be in place by March;
  • and was updated on changes to the union’s political fund rules also required by the Trade Union Act
  • urged members to take part in Saturday’s Stand Up to Racism national conference in London;
  • agreed to send a solidarity message to porters at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital, who are taking action over proposals to impose 12-hour shifts;
  • agreed to a message of support for Lancashire County branch, who had their facility time removed".

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Rebooting the rank and file: why there's still hope for the Unions

interesting article about unions on Labourlist recently. I will post on a related fringe at this years Labour Party Conference.

"Throughout the 20th century, whether you were friend or foe of organised labour, there was no doubting it mattered. Unions mobilised, and sometimes moderated, the power of workers. They secured better terms and conditions and often flexed their muscles through strikes, routine events in the British economy of the 1970s especially. As a result, they were often resented and not widely loved—“somewhere between necessary and a necessary evil” is the memorable line from historian David Kynaston’s book Modernity Britain. But they were, in those more egalitarian decades, an essential part of who we were. As recently as 1983, only one worker in four had never joined a union. But if membership was once a norm to be complied with, then today—outside the public sector—to join up is to stand apart". - Gavin Kelly, Prospect

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Post Grenfell Fire: Dispelling Sprinkler Myths

This evening I took part as a Newham Councillor in a "Fire Safety in Tower Blocks Scrutiny Commission" meeting. It was actually a mostly positive and constructive meeting but for some bizarre reason was held in secret and I cannot report on it. 

I will be taking this up with the Newham CEO. 

However, I thought this recent "promotion" in Inside Housing regarding retro installation of Sprinklers is interesting even though this was paid for by suppliers of such systems

I am so far a fan of retrofitting of blocks with sprinklers but let's see what happens during the Scrutiny.

"Following the tragic Grenfell fire, there have been numerous questions surrounding the retrospective installation of sprinkler systems to tower blocks. Should sprinklers be installed to all tower blocks? Are they cost effective?

Carol Burton, Senior Project Manager at Basildon Borough Council would certainly agree. Following a number of arson related incidents, the Council worked closely with Essex County Fire and Rescue Service to agree the most appropriate way forward to minimise the spread of fire to its dwellings.

In January 2016, following a competitive tender process, Basildon Borough Council installed sprinkler systems across the 84 flats at Brooke House – a Grade II Listed tower block in the centre of Basildon. Works were completed within 26 weeks, with a resident satisfaction rate of 100%.

Various options regarding the type of suppression system were investigated to identify the most effective for the type of fires that had occurred within and around Council premises, and provide the best value for money. The system installed was considered the most appropriate for the size of building, the cost of creating and installing water tank storage, the water pressure in the area, available technology at the time, and the fact that at the time of original design there was still no published British Standard for water mist systems – only a draft document.

Since their installation there have been no false activations or complaints regarding water damage – both common concerns regarding sprinkler systems. Basildon Borough Council now also plan to install sprinklers at the Felmores Estate, with work beginning by early 2018.
The main challenges faced by the Council were dispelling the common myths regarding sprinkler systems to gain resident support. Through joint resident meetings with Essex County Fire and Rescue, the Council were able to dispel a number of myths, including:

MYTH: The sprinklers will be activated by smoke and cause unnecessary water damage.

FACT: Sprinklers are not activated by smoke, but by a predetermined temperature, usually around 73 degrees. The chances of sprinklers malfunctioning are 1 in 16 million; the odds of winning the lottery are greater!

MYTH: When a fire is detected, every sprinkler in the building will activate.

FACT: As sprinklers are triggered by high temperatures, they will only be activated in the areas affected by fire.

MYTH: Sprinklers will ruin the appearance of my home.

FACT: Concealed sprinklers are fitted within the ceiling and covered by a flat plate. Most people don’t notice them, as shown in the images below.

MYTH: Sprinklers will be activated by vandals and cause water damage to properties.

FACT: As modern sprinkler systems are concealed within the ceiling, they are very difficult to vandalise. As it was quoted by a fire officer ‘if a vandal sets off a sprinkler they will only do it once, you get very wet!’

MYTH: Sprinklers are too expensive to install retrospectively.

FACT: The average cost of installing sprinklers is around £2,500 per property. Sprinklers can reduce damage to property by up to 90% and reduce physical injuries by at least 80%. Insurance premiums have been known to go down where sprinklers have been installed.

MYTH: Sprinklers use too much water.

FACT: As well as causing less water damage than a fire hose, sprinklers also use less water. Typically a sprinkler head discharges 55 litres per minute. A firefighting hose discharges over 600 litres per minute.
Another local authority to benefit first hand from the installation of sprinkler systems is Sheffield City Council. They worked in partnership with ########### to retrospectively install sprinkler systems to 23 blocks.
Sheffield City Council commissioned a fire safety report which identified a number of ranch style properties posing a serious fire risk. The Council worked with BAFSA to conduct an extensive cost analysis, weighing up the cost of passive fire safety work and fire suppression systems. As these ranch style properties had a complex layout with various inner rooms, the Council opted for the installation of sprinkler systems.

The main challenge the Council faced was finding the right contractor for the job, as most specialist sprinkler specialists lack experience within the social housing sector; particularly with regard to resident liaison services. As such, ############# was chosen to act as the main contractor, with in-house teams delivering resident liaison services, electrical work, carpentry and decorations.

Sprinkler systems were successfully installed across 540 individual dwellings within 11 months, 9 months ahead of schedule. The project cost a total of just over £1,500 per property.

The system installed by ########### successfully contained a serious fire on the 9th January 2016. The fire began from a mobility scooter parked outside a top floor property. The sprinkler system contained the fire until firefighters arrived on site, and allowed the elderly resident to escape safely.

Sprinkler systems are extremely effective at extinguishing and reducing the impact of fire, however they must be used in conjunction with other fire safety measures such as fire compartmentation, and the use of fire alarms or smoke detectors as an early warning of fire for residents".

Monday, October 16, 2017

Newham Compass debate on Adult Social Care - Quality vs Cash?

Dear Compass Supporter,

Here with details of our event on Thursdsay October 26th at 7.30:

Adult Social Care - Quality vs Cash ?

with Anna Bailey-Bearfield
Lead Officer: Fix Dementia Care
The Alzheimer’s Society

Larry Sanders
Social Care Spokesperson: the Green Party

Jos Bell
Chair: London Socialist Health Association

Please note the new, fully accessible, venue: East Ham Workingmen's Club, Boleyn Road.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

While in Dancing Dick's Lane - White Notley to Witham walk

Definitely off message but today Gill and I went for a linear walk from White Notley station to Witham station (Essex). It was a walk in an old booklet I found on my shelf called "Off the Beaten Track - 20 Rambles in Rural Essex" by Great Eastern Railway.

We had a a bit of a mad panic to get to the station to catch the train to White Notley since the ticket machine at Forest Gate station is currently out of action (should have used the new ones at Wanstead Park).

The walk was fantastic. Really pretty countryside and chocolate box villages. Very quiet and peaceful. We passed no other ramblers even though much of the route followed part of the long distance footpath, the Essex Walk. Apart from a couple of friendly dog owners we saw no-one.

The weather helped, since it was warm and blue skies (I was comfortable wearing only a tee-shirt on 15 October!).

It was interesting to see that an old Post Office red telephone box had been turned into a village base for an emergency Defibrillator in case anyone has a heart attack nearby (my father died while on a walking expedition and I have often wondered if he could have been saved if a defibrillator had been accessible. He had stopped off at a town for breakfast when he had the attack).

The 14th century church in Terling was lovely to visit. An ancient church with brass rubbings of long died medieval knights but still a valued community and religious centre currently celebrating the harvest festival. Well worth a visit if open.

The final part of the walk into Witham was along the oddly named "Dancing Dicks Lane" which went past "Dancing Dicks Cottages" and "Dancing Dicks Farm". I have googled this and found no explanation whatsoever for these names. I did feel obliged to participate and dance even though my name is not Richard (see above picture in collage).

Stopped off at Witham for a much needed drink with our nephew Lewis and his partner, Felicity, and our great niece the gorgeous Teagan!

A fab walk. The booklet said 8 miles (the instructions were not very good but may be just out of date. Make sure you have a Ordnance survey map/route planner with you) but Sportrate on my BlackBerry recorded 11.9 miles (and it took 4 hours 40 which is accurate including stops).

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Newham Labour Councillor Candidate Selection for 2018

I got this email yesterday evening from London Labour Regional office.
"Dear candidate,
Many thanks for attending your interview last weekend. I am pleased to inform you that the assessment team have recommended that you be included on the longlist of candidates and able to seek selection. This is formally subject to a vote by the LCF after the interviews are all complete.
Once the interviews are complete I will be in touch to confirm the next stage of the process. Selection meetings are scheduled for 9 and 10 December".
Game on