Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Nazeing Common walk

Off message but on Sunday Gill and I went for a 5 mile circular walk around Nazeing Common in Essex. Only 30 minutes drive from East London (not great for public transport), we have done several versions of this walk but this one was taken from the Ordnance Survey (OS) app supplied by Country Walking magazine (no route instructions, map only).

It was quite a dull and cold day but it was great to get out of London, stretch your legs and fill your lungs with fresh country air. An easy walk with a little bit of up and down to get your pulse working. Highlights of walk was coming across a herd of deer in a wood, who ran off but remained within sight while we had hot drinks and snacks. 

Near the marvellously named "Bumbles Green", we were amazed at spotting tractors hauling trailers full of parents and and small kids to go and pick, then get chopped down, Christmas Trees. On the trailers, they all had to sit on bales of hay, which looked most unsafe but must have been great fun for the kids.

As normal, we saw very few other people apart from the Crimbo tree brigade and the occasional dog walker. Walking through Nazeing golf club was a little dodgy since the path was not clear but the golfers were patient with us. 

Didn't go for beer at end of walk since we had get to supermarket to pick up a decent Sunday Roast (Forerib) before it closed. 

Check out other pictures of walk (not that exciting since overcast) on Facebook here

Monday, December 05, 2022

Plaistow West and Canning Town East canvass 3.12.22


On Saturday after my surgery I joined the new Councillor team at the also new ward of Plaistow West and Canning Town East. We were joined by our Greater London Assembly member, Unmesh Desai. 

On the whole a fairly positive canvass. Lots and lots of case work (mostly housing repairs). Unmesh and I would knock on a door and ask the resident if they wanted to speak to one of their local Councillors about any issues and if they said yes, we would grab the nearest Councillor, then move on to the next door. 

Most of us were using the Labour Party mobile telephone app "Doorstep".  Names and addresses to visit are downloaded to your phone and you can input and upload any information in real time. It is much better than the old paper based system but I find it is liable to crash and freeze from time to time (but the data seems to be not lost). Probably my phone at fault.

I had a fascinating chat with one resident about the religious symbols on her front door (see top of collage next to xmas wreath - another religious symbol of course) who explained they were about bringing blessings to the local community. 

Cllr Simon Rush asked one resident what he would like to see politically and was told "get rid of this Tory government". Agreed!

I was surprised to find door numbers in one terrace street jumped from 28 to 36? While I asked the resident why this was? I was told "The Luftwaffe"( it had been bombed during the war and less homes were built to replace those destroyed).

Interestly I came across, yet again, a number of residents who had previously been identified as Conservatives or "Against Labour", who now said they would vote Labour in a future election and the only people who said they wouldn't, were those who said they don't vote in elections. We need to find ways to win these non voters over. 

After the canvass we had a quick drink at the Black Lion, then I cycled back home for a late Keto Brunch. 

Sunday, December 04, 2022

My last West Ham Councillor surgery at Stratford Library?

On Saturday morning I had what I hoped to be my last Councillor surgery in the Newham Council Archives and Local Studies in Stratford Library. The staff at the library have been lovely but we (including my fellow ward Councillors John Whitworth and Charlene McLean) are hoping to return to our original base at the Vicarage Lane Community centre which is inside our ward. 

For various repair, covid, safety and staffing issues we have been displaced to Stratford Library. But very soon we hope to be able to offer a local Councillor surgery service every Saturday 10-11am in Vicarage Lane (apart from Bank holiday weekends)

The photo collage was from the Archives room and during quiet moments during the last few years I have spent some time looking at the fascinating books and historical resources on display. While I knew of our collection of paintings by Madge Gill I never knew that Newham Council had a prized collection of luxury locally produced porcelain 

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Nearly one million UK workers suffering from Work Related stress, depression or anxiety - 11% rise


Check out this article in the IOSH website about the 11% rise in work related stress reported by the Health & Safety Executive in their annual report. Very worrying for employers and unions. The HSE believe that nearly half of these workers believe this is linked to the Covid pandemic, while 123,000 believe that their occupational ill health was caused by catching Covid at work (which I believe happened to me last year but luckily I haven't suffered any long term effects).

I also remember many reports during the pandemic on the massive underreporting by many employers of workers killed by exposure to Covid while at work.

The cost of ill health and injuries at work is estimated to cost the UK a staggering £18.3 billion (pre pandemic). I continue also to shocked by the 13,000 workers who died from work related diseases (nevermind the 123 workers killed in accidents - this figure does not include all those who died at work in traffic accidents). 

That means around 36 workers die every day from work related ill health. If terrorists killed 36 people in a single day, we would quite rightly be outraged and "demand something be done".

I will be bringing up this finding on work related stress with my employer as a trade union appointed safety rep and also will see if I can find out more about what is happening to Newham workers as a Councillor on our health scrutiny committee.

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Clarion UNISON AGM 2022 - Re-elected as National Convenor

I was really pleased to be re-elected (unopposed) this evening as the UNISON National Convenor at our AGM which was held in person at our London Bridge HQ and virtually on msn teams. Our most active steward, Joseph Ogundemuren, was also elected to the new position of Deputy Convenor and elections of UNISON reps to Staff Council were affirmed. 

Many thanks to National Secretary for UNISON Community Service Group (Housing Associations and Charities), Gavin Edwards, for being our guest speaker and letting us know about "the state we're in" regarding Housing Associations and most importantly, his advice on the forthcoming pay negotiations, amidst the cost of living crisis. There was a lively debate during the Q&A. 

We will be holding consultation meetings for all staff on the pay rise claim in Clarion and regular surgeries.

While attendance at the AGM was not great considering the size of our membership, we had members from Manchester, Birmingham, Greater London, Norfolk and Kent participating. 

There was lots and lots of fantastic ideas and suggestions about building the union and making it even more relevant to members. So watch this space. In our sector we definitely live in interesting times...

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

11th Anniversary of UNISON National Pension Strike 2011

Facebook reminded me this morning that it is the 11th anniversary of the 2011 successful strike action to protect public sector pensions (Facebook immediately lost any thanks for this memory for refusing to allow me to share, since they thought my post of that day was "spam" but nevermind). 

This was a really important day and without a shadow of doubt, this successful, well organised and well supported action forced the government to back down and has protected pensions rights ever since. In fact, in a recent pension training I attended, we were told that 99% of local government staff had actually benefited from the changes to the scheme brought about after the strike action.  Not only that but currently the vast majority of Council pensions funds are now more or less, fully funded. No financial deficits. A significant improvement since 2011. 

Remember that the government wanted to get rid of traditional (defined benefit) public sector schemes on the grounds that they were somehow "unaffordable". I feel so sorry for workers in private sector defined benefit schemes, who were effectively "cheated" out of a decent pension and given this same excuse. 

The day itself started early with branch picket lines in East London (with some jiving to pass the time and keep warm) followed by a TUC lead march through central London followed by a rally. https://www.johnslabourblog.org/2011/11/unison-housing-association-pension.html

I was really pleased to hear today that UNISON Health workers have voted to go on strike https://www.unison.org.uk/news/2022/11/boost-nhs-pay-to-prevent-pre-christmas-strikes/ after another well organised and thoughtful campaign. I wish them solidarity (and good luck!). I will be joining them on the picket line. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Last weeks Keto (low carb diet) highlights


I have been on a Keto (low carb) diet since June and so far it has worked (I have lost 23 pounds with 6 more to go). I have been exercising as well and cheating massively from time to time. I know it is not great to exclude a major food group from any diet but so far this has worked for me with no apparent side effects. 

Top meal of the week was a keto full english at Pellicci's in Bethnal Green (apparently the Kray's favourite cafe). Next was Skinny Chicken, beef burgers, bacon, cheese and salad at Spoons. Pork chops, gravy & broccoli at home. Skinny Sirloin and salad at Spoons (lots of evening meetings at Stratford and East Ham Town Hall which currently have spoons nearby). Tuna, salmon & avocado mixed salad. All yum.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

West Ham Labour canvass & remembering V2 Nazi Rocket attack (Solidarity with Ukraine)


Yesterday I helped organise a Labour campaign session in the ward that I represent as a Councillor in Newham, West Ham with my colleague Cllr John Whitworth. It was great that we had a number of Party  members joining us including Plastow Councillor, John Morris, (so there was 3 John's on the team) local party members and also Jordan, a UNISON Labour Link activist from Camden.

During the canvass we stopped off to honour (see picture) the roundabout in what is now called Marriott Road, which I believe is the impact site of a German Nazi V2 Rocket attack on 1 Feb 1945. 

See an account of the carnage at this site below:-

"In the early hours of 1st February 1945 at 3:03 am, Hitler’s last weapon of terror, a V-2 Rocket, left a trail of death and destruction on the sleeping street. An unmanned, guided, ballistic missile that had a maximum speed of 3440 mph, flying at an altitude of 52-60 miles, and carrying a warhead of 2150lbs of high explosives dropped without warning onto the sleeping Barnby Street, at up to four times the speed of sound. The ultra-high-speed descent meant that no sound was heard by those about to be hit. The effects of the resulting explosion were catastrophic, the explosion and subsequent sonic boom were heard all over London.

On that cold winters night, in just a few short seconds 29 people lost their lives and 15 others were seriously injured. Houses were totally destroyed and the surrounding streets were severely bomb blasted"

A local resident told us that when she moved into her home right next to the roundabout she was told by the housing officer that this was the site of a mass grave of the dead. I told her that I didn't think that this was strictly accurate. 

Marriott Road is also named after a local firefighter who was killed during the blitz. We must do something to remember him and the dead 29 civilians by the next anniversary on 1 Feb 2023. 

After the canvass we went for coffee (and brunch for some) in the Sawmill cafe in West Ham Lane, which is run by a local Ukrainian family. While enjoying my brunch, I will admit that I felt what happened to Eastenders in 1945 must be similar to the experience of so many Ukrainians in 2022. 

Both victims of vile Nazi aggression. That picture of devastation and death in the collage is the same as so many modern day pictures in Ukraine. 

Solidarity to Ukraine in their fight against Putin fascism!

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Sign up for TUC Pensions Conference 2023

I have just booked a place. Usually an excellent pension conference for trade unionists. Not sure why on St David's Day? Hope they have Cawl for lunch!

"Sign up for TUC Pensions Conference 2023

Congress Centre, London | 09:30 to 16:30 |1 March 2023

Registrations are now open for the TUC Pension Conference 2023. This event is intended for trade union members and officials, pension fund trustees, and anyone with an interest in pensions policy.

The conference will explore how workers’ pensions can be protected from the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and recession.

Join us at Congress Centre in central London to hear from a range of expert speakers, including shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth".

Register for your place here 

Thursday, November 24, 2022

A Stratford & West Ham Champion for women and children - Newham Voices Dec 22

 Another great local newspaper edition from Newham Voices.  This article celebrates amazing two women (one very local) who made a difference in local politics and in art.