Friday, August 18, 2017

Harry's Girl: Street Art

Finally got around to posting this picture of street art off Holloway Road near Highbury Corner.  I have liked it every time I walk to the UNISON office from Highbury but didn't know what it was about.I have just googled it and found out it is about Prince Harry's American Girlfriend and him paying for her security.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Save Sarah Chapman's Grave, A Leader of the 1888 Matchwomen's Strike & Trade Union Heroine

Hat tip local Facebook page. This is going to be a project for Forest Gate North Labour Party.

SARAH Dearman, née CHAPMAN – Matchwomen’s 1888 Strike Committee and TUC Delegate
Born: 31st October 1862 – Died: 27th November 1945 – Buried: 3rd December 1945
Sarah Chapman was a leading member of the 1888 Matchwomen’s Strike Committee (pictured above). Sarah (ringed) is standing to the right of Herbert Burrows and Annie Besant, the Socialist Reformers. Sarah went on to become one of the first working-class women to represent their Union at the TUC.
Sadly, despite the great contribution Sarah made to the beginnings of the modern trade union movement and to working women’s rights, Sarah’s final resting place is a ‘pauper’s grave’ in Manor Park Cemetery. The grave, nothing more than a grassy footpath with no marking, let alone a headstone, was rediscovered by her Great Granddaughter in early 2017.
With burial space running out in London, cemeteries are looking at ways to reclaim land and at Manor Park they do this by ‘mounding over’ so that they can re-use the space. The area adjacent to Sarah is now scheduled to be mounded over and there is every possibility that this will be extended to include Sarah's grave. The Cemetery has offered a plaque elsewhere in the cemetery grounds but Sarah’s descendants feel she deserves to be remembered at the exact location of her grave.
With your support we hope to place a permanent memorial to Sarah on the site of her grave. We already have parliamentary support via Lyn Brown MP and Author Louise Raw (see her Facebook page - Matchwomen Memorial @MatchwomenRemembered). 
This petition will be delivered to:
  • Lord Chancellor an Secretary of State for Justice
    The Rt Hon David Lidington MP

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Being taught to hate...shocking picture even after 25 years

Was this little boy nowadays one of the torch bearing Nazi thugs in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Do you want to be a MP? Unison wants to hear from you.

"The recent general election saw Labour take a huge stride towards Downing Street.
As no party won a majority, the next election could be just around the corner. That’s why the Labour Party plans to select candidates for 75 of the most marginal seats in England in the coming months. Welsh and Scottish seats will be selected separately.
As a union that’s affiliated to the Labour Party, UNISON wants to see our members following in the footsteps of Angela Rayner and Eleanor Smith by getting elected to Parliament and changing our communities for the better.
Are you
  • Active in your local Labour Party and our union?
  • Someone with a strong track record of local or national campaigning?
  • Keen to represent UNISON’s public service values in Parliament?
We’re seeking expressions of interest from potential Labour parliamentary candidates.
If you think you’ve got what it takes – or are eager to hear more – please send us a political CV outlining your experience, and which seat(s) you’d be interested in, to by noon on 31 August".
Hat tip @unisonpolitics

Saturday, August 12, 2017

11 weeks until the TUC National Inspection Day

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August 2017

TUC National Inspection Day - Wednesday 25 October

It's 11 weeks until the TUC National Inspection Day and UNISON is encouraging safety reps to specifically consider inspections focusing on whether the workplace is healthy for all ages.

With the working population ageing and apprenticeship schemes being introduced as an alternative to schooling, this couldn't be more important.  Today’s young worker is more than likely to be tomorrows older worker, but only if work is safe and healthy for all ages.

Safety reps can use inspections to consider not only the tangible hazards such as slips and trips, fire, and work stations. They should also focus on intangible hazards and solutions, including: shift work, job rotation, and flexible working.

Remember, workplaces with active safety reps are twice as safe. So carry out an inspection on national inspection day and:

- raise awareness of the issues;
- identify concerns to raise with the employer;
- raise the profile of safety reps;
- meet members, hear their concerns, and ask if they would like to get more involved or become a safety rep; and
- meet non-members, as issues they raise may also concern members or present opportunities for success or recruitment.

UNISON has various resources which will be of use including our:

- safety rep guide on
workplace safety inspections,
- other guides available from the online catalogue and/or the get help pages,
- National Inspection Day webpage, and

Friday, August 11, 2017

Vote James Beckles for Greater London Seat on National Labour Link (APF) Committee

(Ballot papers are now out for all UNISON members in Greater London who are part of the Labour Link).

This is the message that my branch which nominated James has sent out

"Dear Branch Members

Ballot papers for this very important election should be sent to your home addresses from Wednesday 9 August 2017.

All branch members who pay the UNISON Labour Link levy (also known as the APF) can vote for the Greater London seat. Please take part in the internal democracy of your union.

Your branch Labour Link nominated the following candidate for the Greater London candidate:- JAMES BECKLES.

Statement (and see attached photo)

We support James because he wants to ensure all our members including our black and women members become politically active, vote Labour and we win the next general election as well as supporting UNISON policies in the Party. 

He wants to work with members, UNISON colleagues and the Labour Party to ensure our members’ voices in the Greater London region and across our union are heard at every level of the party. 

James is a young, hardworking and dedicated socialist & trade unionist, and if elected by you the members, he will be accountable to you and serve your best interests".

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Housing association pensions survey 2017

UNISON is carrying out mapping work on what is happening with housing association staff pension arrangements and their relationship with the Local Government Pension Scheme. 

Please do all you can to encourage responses to this survey.


Gavin Edwards
UNISON National Officer
Community and Voluntary Service Group

Housing Associations
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UNISON Community Service Group

1st August 2017

Housing association pensions:


Dear Housing Association UNISON Activist,

s to get an up to date picture of pensions in the housing association sector.

To achieve this, it would be very helpful if you could complete this survey:

This important information will inform our bargaining and campaigning work in the sector.

Best Wishes,

Gavin Edwards
UNISON National Officer for Community

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

West Ham Branch Labour Party Summer BBQ & Fundraiser: Thursday 31 August 7-9pm

This will be a fun event taking place at the Vicarage Lane Community Centre, Govier Close, West Ham, E15 4HW.

Please RSVP to branch secretary John Whitworth if you are planning to come.  All members and their guests welcome.

Hat tip invite Seyi

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Lobby LGA Employers Pay Consultation: London Councils Monday 14 August

I have a clash but hope this important lobby in support of decent pay for all Council workers goes well! I will be submitting a motion on pay to the next Newham Labour Group and branch/CLP meeting. 

Monday, August 07, 2017

"Don’t cat-call, comrades. Support common sense". As controversy continues over defining Jew-hate, read a Marxist view

On Friday the Jewish Chronicle published this article by my libel blogging mate David Osler (aka other names).

By coincidence that day I met with Dave and his partner Stroppy in a Hackney restaurant for a prearranged "put the world to rights" meal, gossip and drink.

This is what was published in the JC:-

"Appealing for an outbreak of sweet reason between Zionists and anti-Zionists is never easy, especially when undertaken by a veteran Marxist with political views a long way from those of the average JC reader.

But, at the risk of displeasing both sides, I want to urge the hard-left to back the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism. Then let me double down, and urge Jewish organisations to commit to using this reasonable instrument in a reasonable way.

The issue hit the headlines after Haringey last week became the latest local authority to adopt the document, despite opposition from sections of the left.

I say “sections of the left” deliberately. Both Jeremy Corbyn himself and Labour left umbrella group Momentum have explicitly made clear they see no problem here.

Lining up against are primarily those socialists who maintain the IHRA definition somehow outlaws legitimate criticisms of the Israeli state, to the detriment of work for Palestinian rights.

And legitimate criticisms aplenty can be levelled at the actions of Israel’s government. But illegitimate criticisms inspired by traditional Protocols-style antisemitism are sadly in circulation, too, and those are the ones on which the IHRA concentrates.

Its two-sentence formal definition of antisemitism is worded so broadly that no anti-racist could object. The same goes for much of the rest of the document.

Disagreement centres on just one or two lines, in particular the stipulation against “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination”.

Much hinges on the interpretation of this passage.

Here, Zionists and anti-Zionists alike are going to have to display common sense.

Fairly read, the clause does not preclude advocacy of any standard radical formula.

The status quo, the two state solution, a bi-national democratic secular state, a democratic socialist federation of the Middle East, or even the anarchist “no state” stance are all proper propositions for discussion.

After all, any settlement actually agreed by those that live in the region exemplifies, on any reasonable construal, self-determination in action.

Anything less is resolutely contrary to that principle. That is the politics of the fascist right and revanchist nationalism, not the politics of the left.

And it goes without saying that accurate reportage is always valid, even where it shows the Israel Defence Forces or Jewish politicians anywhere in a poor light.

Meanwhile, if the unnecessarily parlous state of relations between the left and the Jewish community — which likely cost Labour seats in June — is to be overcome, the first step should be to rebuild bridges.

So don’t cat-call from the public gallery next time IHRA comes up for debate, comrade. Urge your Labour councillor to support it".

David Osler is a journalist and long-standing left wing Labour activist

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Essex Walks: Matching - Sunday 6 August 2017

Off message but Gill and I did a lovely circular 5.3 mile walk today around Matching in Essex (near Harlow). You start at the ancient village church and walk down the road to the most glorious english duck pond ever. You then cross lush meadows surrounded by woods spoilt only slightly by the occasional jet taking off in the distance from Stansted airport and the faint hum of the M11.

You walk away from this into quiet country lanes and across overgrown bridleways. If you don't like getting your legs a little scratched from thorns and nettles then don't wear shorts.

We passed huge fields planted with a crop of peas or beans that appear to have been left to go black and rot for unknown reasons. Then massive field after field of golden wheat just waiting to be harvested.

There were also countless massive dragonflies and fluttering butterflies with the occasional bird of prey up high on patrol for its next meal. Apart from that we saw hardly anyone for the entire walk.

Halfway through the walk, you could leave the route for the Fox pub in Matching Tye for a meal or drink but instead we enjoyed a picnic on the edge of a wood overlooking yet another expansion of wheat.

You finish off along farm tracks and end up again at the start point, the Church of St.Mary the Virgin which is well worth a visit. The guide book that you can buy inside for £2 suggests it was built on the site of a old Saxon Church and has been altered and rebuilt a number of times during the past 1000 years.

I note that the distinguished Welsh scholar and poet, John Morgan, was a vicar here 1728-1732.

30m to the west of the church is the "unique" two story "Wedding Feast Room" built in the late 15th century "for the entertainment of poor people on their wedding day". Amazing.

In the church there is also a memorial to the 197 American airman from 391st Bomb Group who were killed, wounded or missing while based at the Matching airfield from January to October 1944 in support of the D Day Landing.

This was a great walk only 40 minutes drive from East London in a particularly lovely part of Essex.

Hat tip Essex Walks

Saturday, August 05, 2017

What has a Labour Government ever done for us? Oh Yes, Redundancy payments

Hat tip Labour history website & twitter feed "On this Day" OTD in 1965. Redundancy Payments Act. "Gives workers the right to receive financial sum should they lose a job".

Great picture of Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, with his famous pipe overlooking (I am pretty sure) the Durham Miners Gala parade. 

So many people take it for granted that if they are made redundant that they will get money to tide them over until they get get another job or are able to retire. This act also made sure that workers would receive redundancy money even if their employer went bust. 

Redundancy not only softens the blow of losing your job it is also a safety blanket since due to Tory anti worker laws you have little or no employment protection for the first 2 years of your new job and you will probably only have limited company sick pay for the first few years as well (or longer). 

It is important to remember these anniversaries. Many workers think that redundancy is some sort of God given right. It's not. 

This didn't just "happen" - it was the result of a Labour government being elected and trade union campaigning for justice at work.

Never forget this

Friday, August 04, 2017

Black History Month, Carnival & Conference 2018

Black Members – please see important information below to action or note, thanks.

Notting Hill Carnival, London, 27-28 August
Notting Hill Carnival is Europe’s largest street festival representing London's multicultural past and present. UNISON has a regular presence every year at the carnival through its relationship with South Connections, an award winning group – many of whom are NHS workers.

This year we will be promoting UNISON’s key messages and campaigns and engaging as many members as possible. To volunteer - from distributing information to wearing a costume - email

UNISON Celebrates the Journey of Black Trade Unionism
UNISON is organising a networking and community event to celebrate Black History Month at the UNISON Centre on Friday 20th October from 11am to 6.30pm. The event will focus on the journey and link with trade unionism that brought many Black people to the shores of Great Britain. The theme for the event is The History of Black Trade Unionism across the Diaspora – The Journey". There will be presentations on educational aspects of Black History Month, which will also include music, poetry, food from different continents of the world and lots of drinks and nibbles. Speakers include Dave Prentis, General Secretary, Margaret McKee, UNISON President, Rakesh Patel, Thompsons Solicitors, Francis Duku, Show Racism the Red Card, Oku Ekpenyon, Memorial 2007 and others. To attend the event, you will need to register your interest at

National Black Member’s Conference, Liverpool, 19-21 January 2018

The 2018 UNISON National Black Members’ Conference bulletin is now available on the UNISON Conference website. The conference is now open for registration on the Online Conference System (OCS). The conference will be held at the BT Centre, Liverpool from Friday 19 to Sunday 21 January. If you are interested in attending, now is the time to speak to your branch about registering you as a delegate to the conference.

Margaret Greer
National Officer, Race Equality

Thursday, August 03, 2017

"Dozens pay their respects to war victims killed when a bomb hit their bus"

Hat tip Newham Recorder "Cllr and members of the public attending a vigil on Dames Road where a V1 flying bomb landed killing people on a bus outside the Holly Tree pub

Dozens gathered to pay their respects to Forest Gate’s war dead on the anniversary of the night a bomb hit a bus during the Second World War.

The event, organised by Forest Gate North Labour Party, was held at the site of the 1944 blast outside The Hollytree Pub in Dames Road.

It is thought around 20 people died in the explosion, although no reliable record exists because wartime press censorship stopped much detail being published in order to limit the information available to the enemy about attacks.
Cllr Seyi Akiwowo, one of the organisers of Thursday’s event, said: “The event was fantastic. It was put together at short notice and there was a good turnout. I’m glad we were able to pay our respects.”
In his speech at the vigil, Cllr Anam Islam said: “Now, just as then, the price we pay for liberty is eternal vigilance against racism and prejudice.”
West Ham MP Lyn Brown, who was unable to attend the event, told of its importance.
She said: “It is right and important that we commemorate those who perished or lost loved ones in the fight against fascism, and just as important that we remember the anti-fascist and anti-racist heritage of the East End with pride.
“Levels of racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic hate crime have all risen over the past year, and it is important we draw on this past to bring us together and renew the fight against far-right ideology and its terrible effects. That aim will be easier to achieve if we have a more accurate narrative of what actually happened.”
Eyewitness Cyril Demarne is quoted in The Heroic Story of the Second World War Bomb Disposal Teams by James Owen as saying: “A trolley bus, crammed with home going workers, had caught the full blast and the whole area was a sickening sight.
“Dismembered bodies littered the roadway, others were splattered over the brickwork of the houses across the way and the wreckage of the trolley bus was simply too ghastly to describe.
“The lower deck seated passengers were all dead. Although many of the victims had been decapitated, they were still sitting down, as if waiting to have their fares collected.”
(the V1 flying Bomb landed just outside Newham but much of the bomb damage and deaths were inside modern Forest Gate. A 80 year old local resident who remembered being told about the attack pointed out to us the exact impact. The death toil was at least 38 and probably much more) 

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Grenfell Tower: The anatomy of a disaster & the future of social housing in London - Newham Fabians 20 Sept 2017

This looks like a really good event. Well done to the new Newham Fabians Officers for organising this. Thankfully we now have a local Fabian society that  actually does stuff! Tom will be a great speaker. 

Bron Afon Strike action over slashed wages

Good luck to Unison members about to start a further bout of strike action tomorrow. I will be sending a message of support both as a Unison NEC for such community members and behalf of our branch executive.  See letter below explaining the dispute in local newspaper.

"THERE’S a critical dispute happening in Cwmbran. Support workers at Bron Afon housing association have been forced to take strike action after their employer stripped £3,000 from their salaries.
They are not highly-paid and no-one goes into support work to become rich but Bron Afon behaviour has created horrible stress and reduced many staff to tears. In the struggle to make ends meet, some are looking at second jobs or dropping out of the pension scheme. 
Support workers are dedicated to helping improve the quality of life for vulnerable people and give them more independence. Their vital interventions allow service users to keep their home.

Yet because of the slashing of salaries, some employees are themselves at risk of having to leave their homes because they can’t pay the bills. 
Staff are fighting back, taking three days strike action and they were pleased to be joined on the picket line this week by Nick Thomas-Symonds MP and Lynne Neagle AM. Bron Afon can afford to restore the £3,000 to each individual.
There is a moral duty to end the suffering of their staff now".
Cheryl Morgan
UNISON Torfaen County branch secretary
Civic Centre

UPDATE: Subject: Re: Message of support

Thank you so much John, we don't need financial support at the moment but will let you know if we get to that point
Our striking members are very strong and will really appreciate your expression solidarity

Cheryl Morgan
Branch Secretary
UNISON Torfaen 

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Sense about fantasy pension deficits

A great article by Henry Tapper in his blog "Pension Playpen" about the nonsense being spread about the "fantasy deficits" of by the huge UK pension fund, University Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The USS has produced investment returns of 21% increasing its assets to £60 billion in the last year yet due to the broken accounting yardstick that many pensions schemes use to value their liabilities, its supposed deficit has increased by 33% to £71 million.

What a load of old nonsense. As Henry points out why has the deficit increased by such an amount? Have university staff suddenly increased their lifespan by a third?

No, of course they have not and shame on the Daily Mail headline hunters, who claim that lecturers will have to be sacked or  student fees increased to pay for these "fantasy deficits".

Check the comments page of his post for a useful contribution by former pensions minister, Roz Altmann on why gilt driven liability investment is bonkers (my interpretation)  

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tolpuddle Martyrs Walk: Greensted, Essex 2017

On Sunday 16 July Sunday 2017 during the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs weekend, I went for a walk with Gill in Chipping Ongar and Greensted to visit the wooden Saxon Church and pay homage to the Tolpuddle Martyrs who were resettled in farms around here, after they were released from transportation to Australia.

It is a lovely part of the world and the Church is just amazing. It is also thought to be the oldest wooden Church in the world and the oldest wooden building standing in Europe.

One of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, James Brine (I used to manage James Brine House in Bethnal Green as a Council housing officer) married the daughter of another of the victims, Elizabeth Standfield, here on 20 June 1839.

The Martyrs were driven out of the area due to opposition due to the local Rector and they emigrated to Canada.

The walk was about 9 miles (we got a little lost) but it was a good planning event for next year, so any supporters of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, who cannot get to Dorset that weekend may want to join us on a walk to Greensted.

The starting point of the walk in the village of Chipping Ongar is also well worth a visit.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

UNISON wins another important legal case over employers who fail to consult unions

Following on from the victory over employment tribunal fees on Wednesday.

"UNISON has won a landmark court victory today (Friday 28 July) that makes it much harder for employers to ignore staff when making major changes in the workplace.

The Court of Appeal ruling means that for the first time employers will be obliged to consult with unions around any workplace issues that affect their members.

Until now, unions only had the right to be consulted where the law required this, for example in TUPE regulations where employees transfer from one employer to another, and in redundancy cases.

The ruling means employers will also have to involve unions in issues such as those around working hours and holiday pay.

It will benefit thousands of employees whose rights at work are under threat and means that employers will face greater scrutiny over their treatment of staff, says UNISON.

The victory came about after the union took up a case involving parks police who were made redundant by the London Borough of Wandsworth.

The Court of Appeal ruled that UNISON had the right to be consulted by Wandsworth over the job losses.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is the second major legal victory in a week for working people. It means that employees in any workplace where there’s a union will now benefit from greater protection at work.

“The message to bosses is they will have to treat their staff more fairly over pay and working conditions. If they fail to consult unions then they will be acting unlawfully and could be taken to court.”

Saturday, July 29, 2017

West Ham General Election Wash Up

This picture is from Wednesday evening, when we had a West Ham Labour General Election "Wash Up". CLP Officers, Branch organisers and secretaries were invited to our headquarters in Stratford to talk about and debate, what went right with our election campaign, what could had been done better and preparing for the next General Election (which who really knows but could happen anytime soon).

It was a constructive and honest debate and as the Parliamentary agent for the election who chaired the meeting, I am pleased that everyone present contributed. A report on our findings will be sent out to the CLP. A working group on social media was agreed and will meet soon.

On the whole, most things went well in the election and of course, we won in West Ham with a massive increased majority for our MP, Lyn Brown with 77% of the vote. However, we need to get out more of  our 2,000 West Ham Labour members being active and out campaigning and door knocking in marginals.

This is a really exciting time to be involved in politics and I cannot wait for the next General Election and for the West Ham campaigning machine to play its part in electing a Labour government.

(selfie of us with our top CLP Women's Officer, Cllr Seyi Akiwowo)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Remembering local Nazi atrocity - V1 attack on Forest Gate 27 July 1944

Above is a picture collage from this evening's anniversary vigil to remember the victims of a Nazi Flying bomb attack on this day 27 July 1944 which killed horribly at least 38 East Enders (updated figure) at this very spot.

Forest Gate Councillor, Anamul Islam, read out the speech below, While Councillor Rachel Tripp read out a message of support form our West Ham MP, Lyn Brown.

We had leafleted the local area beforehand about the event and I was really pleased that a 80 year local resident, who remembered the atrocity turned up to point us out to the exact location of the attack and give us the copies of the newspaper reports in top left of college. Another resident offered help with the funding of a permanent memorial to the victims (what a good idea).

Many thanks to "E7 now and then" website for providing historical content and Councillor Seyi Akiwowo, for organising leaflets and publicity.

Cllr Islam "I would like to start in the first instance by thanking everyone for making the time to come to mark an important moment in our local history.

During WW2 Newham was one of the most badly damaged parts of London. The bombs came in two waves - the Blitz of 1940/1 and the V1 and V2 raids of 1944/5.

Forest Gate was less badly hit than other parts of Newham such as the dock area, but nonetheless we suffered almost 200 recorded direct hits during the Blitz and about 50 V1 or V2 rockets- but each one was far more lethal- killing at least 70 civilians in total.

This evening we remember the dead of one of the most horrific attacks- when a doodlebug struck the corner of Pevensey and Dames Roads, hitting a passing trolley bus. It was near Holly Tree pub- where we stand today- on 27 July 1944.

The bomb caused mayhem- just how much is unclear. There are no reliable contemporary accounts as the press at that time was heavily censored so as not to give too much information to the enemy.

The Stratford Express was the local paper at the time and was only able to report that a number of buildings close to a public house were damaged. The public house was not named.We know today it was the Holly Tree, where we stand near bye.

The account went on to name four passengers who were killed. It hinted that others were killed or wounded but did not give details. After the war official Air Raid papers named a further four people who were killed that night- almost certainly by the bomb.We know the names, therefore, of eight people killed but following the published memoirs of West Ham’s Chief Fire Officer, Cyril Demarne, we know that probably dozens more died that day as a result of a fascist terror attack. Fire Chief Demarne described the Dames Road bomb as ‘the most horrific thing I have ever witnessed’. His full memoire was published in 1980 by the Newham Bookshop.

It is doubtful that we will ever know the full scale of the death and casualty toll of this dreadful bombing. If there are any lessons to be learned it is that we should never ignore the rantings of seemingly mad fascists and racists, whether they wrap themselves in a black shirt or in the Union Jack. Now, just as then, the price we pay for liberty is eternal vigilance against racism and prejudice.

Let us never forget the dead of this awful bomb blast, or the lesson their destruction leave us.

We will now read out the names of those known to have been killed:

Gladys Blackburn, aged 39

Wendy Blackburn, aged 4

Abraham Ince, aged 76

Edith Tilley, aged 41

William Winter

Denis Barfield

Thomas Driscoll

Reginald Hillman

We will now have a minutes silence.

(note newspaper report that 34 bodies were recovered from bus and more victims died of injuries in hospital and this does not include those killed nearby in their homes)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

UNISON gets employment tribunal fees scrapped

What a fantastic legal victory for UNISON and all British workers at the Supreme Court today. I must admit as a UNISON NEC member when we received reports on the 4 year legal battle which got turned down by the High Court and the Appeal Court that I was worried that we would lose and be liable for massive costs.

However,  today UNISON defeated the Government and they have been forced to scrap the (up to) £1200 fees for taking a case. The balance of power between the employer and the worker has dramatically shifted in one day.

While you cannot totally rely on employment tribunals for justice and security at work (for all our imperfections, you can only seek this from trade union membership) it is an important safety net.

Dodgy employers and bullying managers will think twice about the way they treat their staff since they will realise that their victims will no longer be priced out of seeking justice.

Of course, even if you don't have to pay massive fees, you still need trade union membership to pay for expert and professional legal advice and when appropriate, representation.

Well done to UNISON assistant general secretary Bronwyn McKenna and all her legal team.

"Employment tribunal fees will be scrapped after UNISON won a landmark court victory against the government this morning. 
The Supreme Court – the UK’s highest court – has unanimously ruled that the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees four years ago.
From today, anyone who has been treated illegally or unfairly at work will no longer have to pay to take their employers to court – as a direct result of UNISON’s legal challenge.
 The government will also have to refund more than £27m to the thousands of people charged for taking claims to tribunals  since July 2013, when fees were introduced by then Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling.
Anyone in England, Scotland and Wales wanting to pursue a case against their employer has had to find as much as £1,200. This has been a huge expense for many low-paid employees, says UNISON.
Reacting to this morning‘s decision, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The government is not above the law. But when ministers introduced fees they were disregarding laws many centuries old, and showing little concern for employees seeking justice following illegal treatment at work.
Read the full Supreme Court judgement in
R (on the application of UNISON) v Lord Chancellor
 “The government has been acting unlawfully, and has been proved wrong – not just on simple economics, but on constitutional law and basic fairness too.
 “It’s a major victory for employees everywhere. UNISON took the case on behalf of anyone who’s ever been wronged at work, or who might be in future. Unscrupulous employers no longer have the upper hand.
 “These unfair fees have let law-breaking bosses off the hook these past four years, and left badly treated staff with no choice but to put up or shut up.
“We’ll never know how many people missed out because they couldn’t afford the expense of fees. But at last this tax on justice has been lifted.”
 UNISON assistant general secretary Bronwyn McKenna added: “The Supreme Court correctly criticised the government’s failure when it set the fees to consider the public benefits flowing from the enforcement of legal rights enacted by Parliament.  
 “The effective enforcement of these rights is fundamental to parliamentary democracy and integral to the development of UK law. UNISON’s case has helped clarify the law and gives certainty to citizens and businesses in their everyday lives.”
 The decision marks the end of a four-year fight by UNISON to overturn the government’s introduction of fees.

The actual UNISON Enforcers

"The police need to provide swift answers after the death of Rashan Charles" by Seyi Akiwowo a councillor in Newham, east London

After having a great time at the Afropunk London festival last weekend, I followed my usual ritual before going to bed on Saturday night: checking to see what I had missed on Instagram during the day. I came across the clip of CCTV footage that appeared to show a Metropolitan police officer attempting to restrain 20-year-old Rashan Charles from east London, who shortly afterwards took his last breath. I was stunned and confused. I closed the app with a heavy heart and said a prayer for Rashan and his family.
When I saw the statement from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) the next morning, reporting that it had “obtained evidence which indicates an object was removed from [Rashan’s] throat at the scene”, I instantly thought of Edson Da Costa. Just four weeks ago, 25-year-old Edson, also from east London, died after contact with the police. The IPPC also said that “the pathologist removed a number of packages from Mr Da Costa’s throat”.
I am a local councillor in Newham and the deaths of two young black men in east London in a matter of weeks is a cause for concern, to put it mildly. At this stage there is a lot we still don’t know about both cases and we should wait for the independent investigation to be completed, but I’d like some questions to be answered.
Whatever the packages or objects that were removed from Rashan’s and Edson’s throats were, is there is a safe way to do this? Is there a protocol? Is there a different protocol at an airport if someone is suspected of smuggling something? Does and should the same protocol apply to officers on the beat?
Were the circumstances the same as those of Edson’s death? If so, have the Met been recently given sufficient training and guidance to properly and safely assess the danger a person is in and be able to remove objects from someone’s throat?
If these cases were drugs-related, is this symptomatic of a wider drugs problem in east London? If so, why are drugs still a problem in 2017? Since 2010 we’ve seen central government cuts to local authorities’ budgets on an unprecedented scale, year after year. This has resulted in cuts to non-statutory services such as youth and drug prevention services. We’ve also seen cuts to the public sector and police budget. Police officers are essentially being asked to do more with a lot less. Information on our rights when being stopped and searched by the police is readily available; this should include the searching or removal of objects swallowed.
Part of the anger following this death, expressed by some at a vigil on Monday, is the suspicion that excessive force was used because of the colour of his skin. We know that black men are more likely to be treated harshly by the criminal justice system, at the stages of arrest, charging, prosecution and imprisonment.
Would witness statements and accounts from arrests of non-black people in similar circumstances mirror how we saw Rashan being treated in the video?
These questions are by no means accusations. I regularly work with the police and have seen first hand how hard our local Safer Neighbourhood Team work to keep our community safe. We hold joint surgeries and the team are responsive to the concerns residents have. I see them out around the ward: they produce quarterly updates, they hold various safety sessions and they actively build relationships with our diverse community. I feel this is important to say as, like politicians, they are often negatively generalised.
In recent dealings with the police for online abuse I received, they were helpful and supportive. However, just like politicians, the police are accountable to the public. Additionally, not everyone has or has had a positive experience with the police. There is still a lot more the police need to do to rebuild trust with community groups, beginning by being more representative of the society they represent. This is why, instead of being able to quietly mourn the death of yet another young man from our community and paying respect to his family, many are angry and suspicious of the police and demand the media cover the case accurately and without bias.
In the UK, we believe in the principle of innocent until proven guilty and this extends to the police as well as Rashan Charles. The police, the Home Office, the Greater London Authority must respond quickly to deaths following contact with the police, working with community groups and leaders, giving as much information as possible as soon as they can. Otherwise, rumours will fill the vacuum in which myths are created and fictions believed – and that is not in anyone’s best interest".