Thursday, November 25, 2021

UNISON and the Welsh labour movement, Mark Drakeford's speech

The First Minister helped to launch UNISON Cymru Wales' permanent exhibition in Cardiff on 18 November 2021.

Hat tip @LondonNurse2015

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Enough is enough, #VoteYes for a proper pay rise

Council and school workers deserve a fair and proper pay rise. UNISON is balloting members for strike action after members rejected a 1.75% pay rise. Tell employers that #EnoughIsEnough and #VoteYes for a proper pay rise.

Monday, November 22, 2021

London UNISON, Trade Union Congress & America Federation of Labour

Today I went to the Greater London Regional UNISON office for the first time in nearly 2 years (due to Covid) in order to support a member being interviewed virtually by their employer.  The office is in the historic Congress House, the home of the British Trade Union Congress (TUC). 

We were in the 1st floor UNISON "policy and media team" room. I noticed the above plaque and wondered what this room looked like and how it was used 66 years ago.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Double vaccinated and booster jabbed


This morning I got my Covid booster jab at my local chemist. I had booked an appointment (as over 50) here

The jab was on time and I did not actually feel any tenderness during the injection. No doubt there will probably be some tenderness tomorrow or other minor side effects but so far so good. Many thanks to Woodgrange Pharmacy Forest Gate for their polite and efficient service. I understand it also offers a "walk in" service for those eligible. 

Check out your local "walk in" facility here

I fully accept that I may experience side effects from this jab. I understand the concern expressed by some that the Covid vaccines were brought in comparatively very quickly compared with other vaccines and that I may still catch and suffer from Covid despite all these vaccinations. 

However, I am satisfied that the risk of any serious side effects are tiny when compared to risk of catching Covid. That there has been sufficient independent and expert research into the safety of these vaccines. 

Research has shown that by being fully vaccinated I am less likely to catch Covid, to suffer serious illness or death and to spread the disease to my friends, colleagues and loved ones. 

Check out this British Heart Foundation website advice which I thought was independent and authoritative

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Ringing West Hammers about Boris & 2 Job MPs


This afternoon I was supposed to go out knocking on doors and speaking to residents with our MP, Lyn Brown. However, it was cancelled, so instead I decided to ring residents in the ward I represent as a Councillor, West Ham. 

I used the Labour Party telephone survey app called "Dialogue". All you need to do is to register with your Labour Party membership  account, then have a laptop, tablet or computer with internet access and a phone (preferably a landline which is much cheaper to the Party but you can use a mobile phone). It is completely free for members to use if you have access to unlimited internet. 

I started ringing late Saturday afternoon which I have not done before but thought it would be a good time to ring. The first person I spoke to was very suspicious about why we were ringing since she had lived in the area for 30 years and never had a phone call before from her local Councillor. I assured her that while telephone contact was relatively new, we had knocked on her door at least once every 4 years for the 3 terms I have been her Councillor. 

Interestingly, the suggested script for this call asked for views on the MPs second jobs scandal and views on the Tories and Boris Johnson. 

Her response was that she was not aware of this issue and had not heard anything. Which I thought was surprising but maybe indicated to me that we need to be careful of how issues important to our political bubbles are not of interest to our residents?

However, the next person I managed to speak to was fully aware of this scandal and furious about it. Despite cooking a meal for her family, she made it clear what she thought of Boris Johnson. She had 2 jobs and worked long hours but that was only because her pay was so low. 

She told me that she was cooking Chicken, Avocado with Jellof rice and invited me to join her family for the meal! Sadly I had to decline due to a prior commitment but next time! 

While the next person was quite direct and made it clear that not only was he not a supporter of the Labour Party ("and never will") but that he did not even live in Newham. So I had to apologise for contacting him and made sure that I updated the system to make clear that this telephone number was wrong and not to be used. 

Most answered calls were not contentious and while residents were all pretty busy and many not able to complete the full survey but I was able to input I believe 25 survey results which is not bad and a majority of those who responded said they also support Labour. 

I had to stop after a technical problem with Dialogue which meant for some reason that I could not continue to ring people, which I could not overcome but overall I thought it had gone well.   

Friday, November 19, 2021

Birthday drinks and curry 2011 & 2021

Top picture was from last night and bottom was 2011. Monty, Trev, Dave and I used to work for Tower Hamlets Council Housing. We were also UNISON activists. Thanks to Aromas Restaurant in Forest Gate for great food now and then. 

Lots of reminiscing and putting the world to rights.  

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Damp and Mould - It's not lifestyle.


This is spot on. As a Housing officer and a Councillor, I have been arguing this point as long as I can remember. The stock response of telling all residents it is always their "fault" for damp and mould due to their "lifestyle" is simply wrong. This is a cross tenure issue including many private landlords.

Hat tip Giles Peaker from "Nearly Legal"

"The Housing Ombudsman has released a special spotlight report addressing the issue of damp and mould, called "Spotlight on: Damp and mould. It’s not lifestyle"

It is the result of both the media spotlight on social housing conditions (ITV News with Dan Hewitt prominent amongst them), and what is described as "the high uphold rate and reoccurring reasons leading to maladministration" in the Ombudsman's case work. (Of 410 complaints investigated, 56% resulted in findings of maladministration, 501 orders were made to put something right with 288 additional recommendations, and £123,094.57 in compensation was ordered across 222 cases, with sums over £1,000 being ordered in 21 cases.)

There is a league table of the worst performers, councils and housing associations, with some reaching maladministration findings in 91% of investigated complaints (A2 Dominion since you asked).

There are 26 recommendations, all aimed at moving social landlords from a reactive to a proactive approach, and improving their complaints and response systems.

The whole is well worth reading. There are inevitably, given that this comes from the Ombudsman, some bits that claimant lawyers will disagree with (the Ombudsman is generally not keen on tenants taking legal action). For example, in a section on the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, the report says

This is not necessarily the most effective route to resolution for residents as some registered providers will settle the claim out of court while the underlying disrepair issue remains outstanding.

I'd have to say if that was allowed to happen, the tenant's lawyers would be at fault. Any settlement should of course include an enforceable commitment for repairs, within a set period. Sadly, enforcement action then has to be taken quite often when the landlord doesn't carry out or complete works, but at least enforcement is possible, unlike an Ombudsman decision/order.

But this is a niggle in what is otherwise a well considered report, with recommendations that all social landlords should indeed put into practice.

In a passage that will no doubt raise applause from a lot of affected tenants, and those who act for them, the Ombudsman says:

This leads to the most sensitive area – the inference of blame on the resident and the associated onus on them when it is often not solely their issue. Our call for evidence revealed an immense frustration and sense of unfairness at the information residents are sometimes provided by landlords about issues like condensation and mould. This reoccurred so often it is appropriate to call it systemic. I met with residents who spoke about feeling patronised, even stigmatised. While I appreciate this is not intended, I would urge engagement with residents to review communication and literature, working together with them to co-design meaningful advice that shares responsibility and supports them at a distressing time. In doing so I hope the word ‘lifestyle’, when it may be a consequence of limited choices, is banished from the vernacular.

The routine refusal by landlords to accept that there are issues with a property, and to blame the tenant for the problems ('open the windows, keep the heating on, keep the bathroom and kitchen door closed' etc etc.) has been a huge issue for getting damp and mould dealt with. (It also doesn't make practical sense if the bathroom and/or kitchen aren't provided with adequate ventilation. It just ensures mould in those areas).

It is perhaps unfortunate timing for them that in the same week as the report, a housing association, Housing For Women, released a guide to tenants for 'Managing Mould and Condensation' which states, at page 2

"Making sure your home is free of mould and damp is not only important for your health, but it is also your responsibility as a tenant."

The Ombudsman's recommendations might have some way to go to being realised...

PS . ITV News Dan Hewitt has an interview with the Ombudsman on the report here

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Good and The Bad - UNISON Labour Link & Self Organisation

Excellent news yesterday about the UNISON National Labour Link committee elections.

"Congratulations to my UNISON friends and colleagues Linda Hobson and Sian Stockham on being elected as Chair and Vice Chair of the UNISON National Labour Link Committee.

 Especially happy to see Sian as one of the Wales NEC members flying the flag for Cymru/Wales.

As chair of UNISON Cymru/Wales Labour Link committee looking forward to working with both of you".

Hat tip Dan Beard.

However, today we find that the ultra left in UNISON NEC tried to destroy our members right to self organisation

"Felt very uncomfortable today by proposals by some on UNISON’s NEC, including a Vice President, that nominations made by our elected Self Organised Groups of who UNISON’s representatives on the TUC Women’s Committee and TUC Disabled Members Committee and the motions they agreed to submit to these conferences should be overturned by NEC.

I strongly argued against and said this was a very dangerous road to be going as it sounded like our Policy Committee knew what was good for women and disabled members rather than the women and disabled members themselves.

At the end it was agreed to remit for further discussion but if this is Time for Change I believe it is time for our members to challenge this change. The leading voice for Women, Disabled, Black and LGBTI+ members are those people themselves

Hat tip Gordon Mckay (former UNISON President and current NEC member). 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Labour's Fair Pay Agreements (winning back support from working class voters)

This evening I enjoyed a tasty curry in Whitechapel with a UNISON comrade. During which we discussed how Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, can win back economic left minded but often socially conservative working class voters.

I have been meaning since Party Conference to post on the progressive employment policies announced by Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, which I think we all ought to be banging the drum about more. The aim is to end poverty working and insecure employment for 31 million workers.  It will also bring back working class support for Labour. After recent electoral disasters in "Red Wall" heartlands we must have a radical but believable economic "left" offer. 
  • Fair Pay Agreements which will be negotiated through sectoral collective bargaining – starting in the adult social care sector.
  • An immediate increase to the minimum wage to at least £10 per hour for all workers. Eradicating in-work poverty by tackling the structural causes of poverty and ensuring that the future National Living Wage is adequate and addresses increases in the cost of living.
  • The creation of a single status of ‘worker’ for all but the genuinely self-employed so all workers have the same rights and protections, including rights to sick pay, holiday pay, parental leave and protection against unfair dismissal from day one on the job.
  • The right to flexible working for all workers as a default from day one, alongside the ‘right to switch off’ outside of working hours.
  • A ban on zero-hours contracts and an end to ‘one-sided flexibility’, with all workers having the right to a regular contract and predictable hours, reasonable notice of any changes in shifts of working hours and wages for cancelled shifts paid in full.
  • Increasing Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and making it available to all workers, including the self-employed and those on low wages currently excluded by the lower earnings limit for eligibility.
  • Ending fire and rehire.
  • Extending statutory parental leave, introducing the right to bereavement leave, strengthening protections for pregnant women, and reforming the failed Shared Parental Leave system.
  • Updating trade union legislation so it is fit for a modern economy and so working people have strengthened rights and are empowered to organise collectively.
  • Overhauling enforcement of rights and protections by establishing a single enforcement body to enforce workers’ rights, inspect workplaces and bring prosecutions and civil proceedings on behalf of workers against bad employers relating to health and safety, minimum wage, worker exploitation and discriminatory practices.
  • Introducing mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting to mirror gender pay gap reporting, and a new requirement on employers to report and eliminate pay gaps through the implementation of action plans to eradicate inequalities in the workplace.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Standing as a Labour and Co-operative Candidate in May 2022

Hat tip to Neil Wilson our Newham secretary, Co-op Party from London Region.

Standing as a Labour & Co-operative candidate

We are really keen to ensure we maintain a large number of Labour & Co-operative councillors following the local elections next year. We are working with our new regional organiser, John Cook, to help make this happen. Here are some things we're asking branches to do:

- Encourage any sitting Labour & Co-operative Councillors who are re-standing to get in touch with the National Party if they wish to re-stand as Labour & Co-operative. This is not an automatic process - candidates need to seek endorsement of the Co-operative Party even if they were elected on the joint ticket last time around. They can do this by signing up to the Candidate Development Programme.