Tuesday, July 16, 2019

When we also murdered Jews...

Last week I was in York for a UNISON Labour Party conference. In the centre of York there is castle called Clifford’s Tower.

In March 1190 the entire Jewish population of York estimated to be 150 men, women and children had fled to the Tower for protection from an antisemite mob.

The Tower was set alight. Most of them decided to commit suicide rather than surrender to the mob. Those who did surrender were slaughtered.

Jews were also being murdered in London and Norfolk.

Least we forget are own shameful history.

Hat tip https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/cliffords-tower-york/history-and-stories/history/

Friday, July 12, 2019

Fair Tax Week

This week is Fair Tax Week. Imagine what a better world we would live in if the rich individuals and corporations paid their fair share in taxation.

One of my favourite quotations is this “I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization". Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Hat tip Coop Party.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

A day with a Community Wealth Builder

I have finally got around to posting on a great "fact finding" visit I had recently with Leader of Preston Council, Cllr Matthew Brown, showing me and a Newham Council officer Community Wealth Building (CWB) initiatives in and around his City centre.

Our aim was to learn from lessons from Matthew and the "Preston Model" for Newham. Matthew took us around a number of CWB related developments starting with lunch at a new co-operative cafe opposite the town hall.  Next was a walkabout around the excellent new market that has been rebuilt offering opportunities to new startups and existing stall holders as well as encouraging locals to shop locally. 

A Preston Cooperative Network has been set up proving advice, informaton, consultancy, training, facilities, finance and access to suppliers.

Reduced rent can be provided for by the Council for cooperatives provided staff are paid a living wage and recognise trade unions.

Matthew also took us to visit a housing coop building new homes and also new build student accommodation built with the help of pension fund investment.

We also had a frank discussion with Matthew and a Preston Council regeneration officer about how difficult the CWB journey has been at times. Dealing with public procurement and partnership arrangements with anchor institutions was never going to be easy or straightforward.  Getting support and close collaboration with the University of Central Lancaster, CLES (economic think tank), Mondragon Corporation (Basque federation of worker cooperatives) and the Open society was important but political buy in from Councillors and officers is key.

Matthew was very interested in what we are doing in Newham, in particular our proposed pension fund investment in social housing.

Many thanks to Matthew and Preston officers for taking the time to welcome and inform us. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Unison School uniform grants closing soon!

Members on low income could be eligible for school uniform grants from UNISON “There4You” of £40 per child (up to maximum of £120 for 3 children).

Application forms have to be returned by Friday 19 July. Members who are housing benefit and have limited savings should qualify.

Contact your branch welfare officer or if you do not know how then ring Unisondirect 0800 0 857 857 or check out https://www.unison.org.uk/get-help/services-support/there-for-you/unison-school-uniform-grants-2019/

Hat tip photo UNISON Scotland

Monday, July 08, 2019

UNISON National Labour Link Forum 2019 - Day 2

Final morning of Forum (Saturday). The delegation had sat together for the formal meal the previous evening. There was another 9.30 start with the UNISON Labour Link Annual Report.

There was a lovely presentation by the Chair of Labour Party NEC, Wendy Nichols to Keith Birch, our National Labour Link officer, who is retiring from UNISON (and from the Labour Party NEC). Keith received a standing ovation from Forum for his 30 plus years of service to the union and the party.

Then we debated motions until just before lunchtime.

I was pleased with the number of speakers from Greater London region and that our two London motions were passed (Motion 7. Ambulance Workers Age of Retirement and motion 16. Trade union Freedom).

Another successful Labour Link forum which despite everything the Tories can throw at us shows that the Labour Movement in UNISON is still live and kicking.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Anne Lister: Lesbian and Diarist

After the end of UNISON Labour Link Forum,  we stayed on at York for the weekend and we went on a guided tour of York, which took us to the Church (Holy Trinity) that Anne Lister and Ann Walker sealed their union in Easter 1834. The film series "Gentleman Jack" is currently on TV (and Saturday was London Pride)

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Motion 2 – Local Government Finance #LabLink19

This is my speech to UNISON Labour Link Forum on behalf of the National Committee on Government cuts to Local Government.

"Forum, the scale of the problem is simply staggering.

Government funding to local authorities has been cut since 2010 by an incredible 60%. This means Councils have lost 60p in every pound since the last Labour Government. 60p in every pound!

While at the same time, councils have had to deal with rising demand for its services. For example.

· the number of homeless families living in temporary accommodation has increased by 34%

· the number of “looked after” children living in our care grew by 11%; and

· the number of elderly people in need of care aged 65 and over increased by 15%

So Forum, we have vulnerable families, children and the elderly suffering the most from vicious Tory and Lib Dem austerity

But surely Forum, last year didn't he Tories claimed that austerity is coming to an end? I think you will find Local Government beg to disagree.

A few special funds, here and there maybe, but nothing, repeat nothing, which meets the real needs we face.

And anything really new in the current Tory leadership debate? Sorry, a big fat zero; nothing about the role of Local Government and its services

A few crumbs on social care but NO concrete plan.

It is only fair to say that Labour’s last manifesto, while excellent on many things, was short on detail for local government – and rather short on cash as well.

However, our colleagues in Labour Local Government, do have plans for what will be needed from day one of a Labour government, to begin the task for putting local government finance back on firm foundations.

And most importantly, where Local Government workers get a fair reward.

UNISON is best placed to be the voice of the local government workforce and residents.

We must build a campaign,

Like no other in recent years

This week at local government association conference, Even Tory council leaders, were admitting that a third of all councils are frightened they will run out of money for statutory services, never mind everything else.

We must be the champions of Local Government across the whole country.

Forum, get behind the motion and fight for local government. Please support".

Motion was passed unanimously.

Friday, July 05, 2019

UNISON National Labour Link Forum 2019 - Day 1

I arrived yesterday morning for a pre meeting of the National Labour Link Committee where we agreed policy towards toward motions and agreed our speakers. In the evening I chaired the London regional delegation meeting, after which 11 of us went for a meal in a local curry restaurant.  

Forum started at 9.30am with a report by Standing Orders committee followed by debates on motions. I spoke on motion 2 "Cuts in Local Government" on behalf of the National Committee.  Next was a speech and Q&A by Richard Corbett MEP, leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party. Richard is quietly spoken for a politician but gave an impressive and good humoured analysis of the Brexit crisis. I just hope he is right that backing a second referendum will not damage Labour's election prospects.  

After more debates on motions, our Keynote speaker was our General Secretary, Dave Prentis, who pointed out that there is no such thing as a "left wing No Deal" Brexit. "No deal" will be hugely damaging. 

Lunch was followed by a workshops and at 4pm there was a panel of MPs who used to UNISON activists,  Melanie Onn,  Liz Twist and Daniel Zeichner. Mel told Forum that our Party needs to unite and get its act together to defeat the Tories and "stop the nonsense" (to loud applause). 

Later that evening there was the famous Labour Link meal for delegates at the hotel. A good time was had by all. Forum restarted 9.30 sharp the next day.