Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Get help to keep warm: Up to £200 winter fuel grant for low income UNISON members

Heads up! Pass the word

"The There for You Winter Fuel Grant programme for 2021 opens on Monday 25 January. For this year only, grants of up to £200 will be available to help UNISON members with fuel bills this winter.

Members whose income is less than £18,200 (if living alone) or £26,000 (for a family) can apply. Applications will also be accepted from members in receipt of either Housing Benefit, Universal Credit or Council Tax reduction.

Online applications will open here on 25 January (with a downloadable form also available) so please save the date".

Monday, January 18, 2021

Newham Voting for Change - Let us really Trigger our Democracy


There was a positive and also constructive meeting tonight on how to support the committee governance model and get rid of the Executive Mayor system in the forthcoming Newham Council democracy referendum in May. Check out and support "Newham for Change"

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Scrap Unfair Visa Fees for Armed Forces Commonwealth troops


Stephen Morgan MP

"Those from the Commonwealth, who serve in our Armed Forces, risk their lives to keep us safe but face huge fees when applying for their citizenship. Labour is rightly calling for these fees to be scrapped.

John Healey MP and Nick Thomas-Symonds MP have written together about how Commonwealth Veterans deserve the right to remain after their service ends...

"Labour will always stand up for the national interest. That is why we are calling on the government to scrap these deeply unfair charges and properly recognise the courageous service those armed forces personnel have given to our country."


Saturday, January 16, 2021

Love Unions 8-14 February 2021


Today I attended the TUC London, East & South East (LESE) Regional Council meeting as a UNISON delegate.  LESE is the largest of the TUC's six English regions and covers three of the former government regions: London, the South East, and East of England. Over two million trades unionists live and work within the region.

I hope to write a report on the meeting later but thought I should highlight this years "Heart Unions" week. 

"HeartUnions week will be take place 8-14 February 2021. It’s a chance to tell the story about why unions are vital for everyone at work, and encourage people who aren't yet in a union to join. 

What's it all about?

During the week we want to do two simple things:

1. demonstrate how brilliant unions are by showcasing all that we achieve for working people – especially during the pandemic.

2. encourage as many people as possible who are already union members to ask someone they know to join one too.

So, during the run up to HeartUnions week – and during the week itself – we’ll be sharing stories that show unions’ impact and providing reps and members with resources to help them get more people to join a union.

Get involved

We hope unions will run their own HeartUnions campaigns highlighting what they’ve won with and for their members, and encouraging more workers in their respective industries and sectors to join a union.

On social media we’ll be using the hashtag #HeartUnions. Use it to keep in touch with what the TUC and unions are saying, and to publicise your own activities.

Over the last year unions have demonstrated their relevance and effectiveness like never before, so let’s use #HeartUnions to say loudly and proudly UNIONS ARE BRILLIANT – JOIN ONE TODAY!"

Friday, January 15, 2021

Montrose Turns 60

Happy birthday to my Tower Hamlets UNISON Housing and Labour Party comrade (and old friend) Montrose Matty on his 60th birthday. 

We have just finished a virtual beer and curry with various mates and his family and look forward to meeting up in the real world when safe. 

Hat tip marvellous YouTube to his daughter L. Great to see his lovely Grandchildren. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Keir Hardie MP Labour Party membership card 1895 (& modern version)

Yesterday was the 128 anniversary of the birth of the Independent Labour Party (forerunner of the Labour Party). Hat tip Ali G & the Keir Hardie Society.

By coincidence I was sent the above picture of the ILP membership card issued to Keir Hardie dating from 1895, when I assume he was still the first ever Labour MP (for West Ham South). 

Hat tip @LondonNurse2015

Compare with a more recent version of Labour Party membership card. Functional but pretty boring I think. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Save Our Libraries! Tower Hamlets Joint Trade Unions


I have been asked to attend this event next Tuesday. I have clash but will see if I can attend. When I was the assistant branch secretary for Tower Hamlets UNISON, I was the lead negotiator on the introduction of Idea Stores. 

Tory Austerity and Government Covid mismanagement has placed many local authorities in an impossible place but I hope that these vital public services can be saved. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

'Race to the bottom' and 'unwelcomed trade-off': Investors don’t buy UK’s plans for dual class shares to attract listed firms post-Brexit


The UK listings review proposed by the Treasury, including the introduction of dual class shares with different voting rights for shares listed with the London Stock Exchange, has not been welcomed by investors.

The review is led by Jonathan Hill, former European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union and a Member of House of Lords. A consultation closed on 5 January and the review will continue in early 2021. 

Lord Hill’s review is seen as an attempt to ensure that the UK remains an attractive place to list after Brexit, as competition increases from other stock exchanges in Europe and beyond that have relaxed listing regimes and corporate governance frameworks. 

Athanasia Karananou, Head of Corporate Governance at the Principles for Responsible Investment, tells RI that dual class shares can severely undermine the effectiveness of stewardship and the power of institutional investors to hold companies accountable. “Weakening the existing rules to effectively allow such structures would appear to be regressive and contrary to the high corporate governance standards of the LSE premium listing segment,” she explains, adding that the proposal could affect investor confidence and “reinforce concerns around a potential global race to the bottom” resulting in lower governance standards and investor protections globally. 

The International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN), the investor body whose members represent $54trn (€44.3trn) in assets under management, labelled the proposal “a trade-off that waters down regulatory standards at the expense of investor protection”. 

In its response to the consultation, ICGN said: “This public consultation makes clear that dual class offerings and lower free float are both on the table, our clear message to you is that such developments would be unwelcome by a substantial number of institutional investors globally.”

ICGN said that while sympathetic to concerns of short-termism that might lie behind Lord Hill’s review, dual class shares are a seriously flawed tactic with unintended consequences.

“Weakening the existing rules to effectively allow such structures would appear to be regressive and contrary to the high corporate governance standards” - Athanasia Karananou, PRI

The main UK retail investor bodies, the UK Shareholders’ Association and ShareSoc, have also opposed the plans, with  / Cliff Weight, ShareSoc’s Director, labelling it as “utterly misguided” and “a race to the bottom” by attempting to improve the UK market by relaxing corporate governance standards. 

“This review has focussed on what can be done to make the UK a more attractive regime for companies to list, where perhaps a more important consideration is what can be done to make the UK a more attractive regime in which to invest,” he went on. “The key point is that the stock market is now global, the marginal costs of investing in UK shares are excessive, and the returns from UK shares have been below average.”

Weight added he would prefer stronger standards in light of the most recent accounting and auditing scandals such Carillion, Thomas Cook, Conviviality and Patisserie Valerie.

PIRC, a UK governance consultancy advising the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, also opposed the relaxation of governance standards in its response to the review.

Alan MacDougall, PIRC Managing Director, wrote: “Problems with the collapses of NMC Health (a FTSE 100 company) and Finablr (a FTSE 350) company predated COVID, and appear to us to be a result of previous measures to relax the Listing Regime.” He suggested that listing requirements should be instruments of Parliament, and subject to its authority, to minimise “many of the problems caused by [corporate advisory side] lobbying”. 

Other jurisdictions already allow dual class shares, among them the US, Hong Kong and Singapore. In Europe, the Netherlands features prominently. According to Rients Abma, Executive Director of Dutch governance organisation Eumedion, it is referred to as the ‘Delaware of Europe’ due its flexible company laws.

Abma tells RI that five listed companies have dual-class shares: Prosus (with a 1:1000 ratio), Altice Europe (1:25), Trivago (1:10), Yandex (1:10) and Digi Communications (1:10). In addition, six firms have issued loyalty shares for long-term shareholders (i.e. their founders): Stellantis (the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot), Ferrari, CNH Industrial, Exor, Campari Group and Cnova.

Abma said the current political climate favours loyalty shares and dual-class shares because politicians believe that those share structures can attract new company headquarters. “Last year Campari Group decided to relocate from Italy to The Netherlands and Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot decided to establish its joint headquarters [now Stellantis] in Amsterdam, leaving London and Paris behind. Also CureVac [involved in a Covid-19 vaccine] decided to relocate its statutory seat from Germany to The Netherlands as the company can protect itself better against possible hostile bidders, after the Trump intervention in April 2020.”

Spain is the next European country that will introduce loyalty shares, although as an option that shareholders should ultimately approve. The reform is still being discussed in Parliament.

Research reviewed by Alex Edmans, Professor of Finance at the London Business School, suggests that dual-class structures are “undesirable for most firms”. 

He says academic evidence suggests that dual-class shares entrench management and allow it to pursue its own interests rather than protecting a firm’s entrepreneurial vision and fostering long-term investment. 

According to Edmans: “Dual-class shares will severely hinder shareholders from engaging, worsening the problem of disengagement and the ownerless corporation.” 


Monday, January 11, 2021

Christina McAnea elected UNISON general secretary

Absolutely fantastic news! Congratulations to the first ever female General Secretory of any of the biggest 5 UK trade unions. Commiserations to the 3 other candidates (and especially to Roger McKenzie who ran a good, clean campaign). What we need to do now is move on and unite around Christina in our battle to protect our members against this truly dreadful government. 

Voting in the ballot was as follows:
Paul Holmes                 45,220 (33.76%)
Christina McAnea       63,900 (47.7%)
Roger McKenzie           14,450 (10.79%)
Hugo Pierre                   10,382 (7.75%).