Thursday, April 15, 2021

1st Post Lockdown Beer & Curry


This evening I met a UNISON colleague at the Euston Tap for some outdoor beers followed by a lovely Goa curry. It was fantastic to meet up and enjoy a drink and food with friends. The trains were super quiet and pretty much everyone was socially distancing. 

It was cold but my fault for not having more layers. Next time...

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

My NEC report to UNISON Community SGE

I am the elected NEC General seat member for all UNISON Community members (Housing Associations and Voluntary sector).  My colleague, Denise Thomas,  is the Female seat holder. This is my latest report on my NEC activities to our Community Service Group Executive which met virtually today. 

John Gray: National Executive Council (NEC) report to Community SGE

My last report was 1 December 2021. The response to the Covid pandemic has again dominated my work as an activist and as a NEC member.

Now that it appears the very worse may be over, we need to ensure that the Westminster Government does not try and make Community members pay for the cost of Covid by further austerity. Below is my NEC related activity since last SGE.

UNISON Staff Pension Trustee training 12 January

I am an Employer representative on the trustee board. Virtual training by advisors on updates to pension law, taxation, ESG topics, Climate Change and TCFD (carbon disclosures)

Policy Development and Campaigns Committee 13 January

Branch resources review – update and presentation; Brexit update; National Delegate Conference’ Campaign update (including pay freeze); Campaigning for public services and a just society post COVID19; Items based around the four strands agreed on 20th May:  TUC UN Demo International Day of Action Against Racism; Covid-19 vaccination - discussed UNISON approach; TUC General Secretary letter. Consultations – submitted under chairs action since last meeting:-

·         Response to the DWP consultation: Good Practice on In-Work Progression in Low -Pay Sectors

·         UK National Data Strategy (NDS) Consultation December 2020

·         UNISON response to law commission consultation on hate crime law


·         UNISON submission Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry/Windrush Compensation Scheme

·         HCLG Committee Inquiry: The Impact of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) on homelessness and the private rented sector

UNISON Staff Pension Investment sub-committee 14 January

I chair this sub-committee on pension investment strategy and monitoring.

UNISON Staff Pension Investment sub-committee 9 February

Follow on meeting

NEC 10 February

There was introductory remarks and we had a minutes silence to remember UNISON activists and officers who had passed away since the last full meeting.

Report and debate on National Delegate Conference Business; Report on motions, rule amendments; NEC conference plan; Finance report; General Secretary Report and Organising update.

Extraordinary meeting of SGE/Community Live planning 22 February

Planning meeting

UNISON Staff Pension Trustee Board meeting 24 February

Regular trustee board meeting

NEC 26 February

This was a special NEC meeting to discuss and agree the Branch Resource package.

UNISON Staff Pension Trustee Board meeting 3 March

Continuation of meeting from previous week

Community Live events 16-19 March

Attended as many of these excellent events as I could

UNISON/APSE Online Housing Roundtable Meeting 23 March

Attended and contributed to meeting with other members of Community Housing sector committee

NEC training on Pensions 24 March

This training was for all NEC members on how to better understand issues relating to the UNISON staff pension fund

Policy Development and Campaigns Committee 6 April

Special Delegate Conference 2021. Approve draft motions for Special Delegate Conference; Campaign update (including pay freeze); Housing To received verbal briefing on UNISON’s housing campaigns; Health and Social Care White Paper briefing; National Black Members receive a report and recommendations from the Committee. Consultations – submitted under chairs action since last meeting:-

  •  UNISON submission Home Office call for evidence Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy 2021 -2024
  • JCHR call for evidence March 2021
  • UNISON response March 2021 Green Paper: Transforming Public Procurement
  • UNISON submission Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy consultation Measures to extend the ban on exclusivity clauses in contracts of employment
  • UNISON response February 2021 Digital trade and data enquiry International Trade Commons Select Committee Inquiry
  • UNISON submission in response to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government review to boost the provision of toilets for women and men

NEC Meeting 7 April

We had a minutes silence to remember UNISON activists and officers who had passed away since the last full meeting.

We agreed NEC motions to the “special conference” and received an update on how the conference will happen.

The General Secretary gave a very comprehensive report and answered many, many questions (including mine on how we need to target any employers who intend to reduce “sleep in” payments for staff after the very (very) disappointing Supreme Court decision not to apply the national minimum wage to such shifts.

Next were reports from: organising, service groups, Industrial action committee, disciplinary matters, minutes and staff pensions

Industrial Action Committee (IAC)

As the elected NEC vice chair of IAC, the Chair and I deal with weekly or even daily requests and/or approvals for industrial action including those by Community members. In all my time on IAC I have never refused to endorse industrial action.

Ad hoc

There has been other occasional virtual meetings/calls with other NEC members, advisors and UNISON national officers in relation to my role on Staff Pension Committee and IAC. In more usual times this might have been a chat over an issue in the UNISON centre canteen.


I did attend the virtual retirement do of our former National Secretary, Dave Johnson on 5 March. Dave was of course, his usual “quiet and retiring” self. I wished him well and thanked him for his long service to UNISON and in particular to our Community Service Group.


John Gray Community NEC (General Seat)  

(Please ring or email if any questions or comments, especially from any new members to the SGE. If you want Denise or I to present virtually to your branch, SOG or regional meetings, then just let us know)

13 April 2021

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

All our London EU Citizens can vote Sadiq for London on May 6

All our London EU Citizens can vote Sadiq for London on May 6

Also whether you're working from home, juggling work and childcare or working shifts on the frontline, the safest and easiest way to have your say is to vote by post. Just fill in your details here, print, sign and post your form to register. 

In England and Wales you have until Tuesday 20 April for your council to receive your form.

Vote Safely. Vote at Home. Vote by Post.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Happy 80th Birthday Mum!

This is the 2nd "off message" post in a row but it is my personal blog and many families in the UK (and elsewhere) are in similar circumstances. Gill and I spoke to my Mum on FaceTime this morning  to wish her happy birthday and had a lovely chat. 

My sisters and I had chipped together to buy her a new IPAD for her 80th. Thank God for Facetime during the past 13 months!

She had her 2nd Covid Jab on Saturday (Oxford Zeneca - no side effects so far). I am discussing with staff in her Housing Association sheltered accommodation block (in North Wales) how and when we can go and see her. The last time was August last year. 

She has a new Great Grandson (see top right) that she has not even seen yet and while she is really keen to see us all, she recognises she is very vulnerable and only wants to meet when it is safe. Hopefully very soon. 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Benfleet Downs & Hadleigh Marsh Walk


"Off message" but another lovely post lockdown walk with Gill, 53 minutes by car from Forest Gate. This time in Essex, starting off at at the ruined but still very impressive, 13th Century Castle at Hadleigh, which has great views overlooking Canvey Island, the Thames Estuary and the Kentish North Downs. 

We walked along the Benfleet creek embankment and enjoyed the clouds and sunshine of "Big Skies" Essex. It was cold and windy in exposed parts but warm out of the wind and when in the sunshine. 

We also walked up and then down to the Olympic (2012) Mountain Bike park which is currently closed for essential maintenance. I must get a decent mountain bike and visit when it reopens. 

"On message" is that we started at the former "Labour colony" next to Hadleigh Castle which was set up by the founder of the Salvation Army, General Booth. Check out here further information  these  This is not something that I would support nowadays but at least in the 19th century, someone was trying to do something about poverty and unemployment.  It is now a tea room, rare breeds farm and Salvation Army centre. Closed now but hopefully opened from tomorrow. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

WORK – The ESG Conference

 (This looks interesting. It should not have needed the onslaught of Covid to raise the profile of "Social" in ESG. There is also too much #LabourRightsWashing going on ) 

"WORK – The Conference

The Covid-19 pandemic has served to remind us of the vital role played by workers in a range of industries. Our societies rely on often modestly paid workers in sectors like food production and distribution.

Yet despite increased rhetoric about the importance of the S in ESG, most events touch briefly on these issues, in particular in relation to labour and employment. We know that investors are interested in understanding employment issues more deeply, and that workers and labour organisations want their concerns to attract more attention from responsible investors.

To shift the balance, we have decided to a day-long online ‘conference’ devoted to employment-related ESG issues, and nothing else. It will put work, and workers, centre stage for once.

Sessions will focus on topics such as labour market policy, the materiality of employment issues, the importance of bargaining power and more.

Speakers include:

Matthew Taylor, head of UK Government's Review of Employment

Paul Nowak, Deputy General Secretary, Trades Union Congress

Dr Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director, The Equality Trust

Christine Berry, author writing on democratic ownership (Verso 2022) and senior fellow at the Finance Lab

Katie Hepworth, Director of Workers' Rights, Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility

Caroline Escott, Senior Investment Manager - Active Ownership, Railpen

Damon Silvers, Director of Policy and Special Counsel, AFL-CIO

Duncan Symonds, Executive Director, IFM Investors

If you would like to attend please register on the link below, there is also a link to register on the attached conference flyer.

Please note, the conference will run in two sessions (10:00 - 12:30 & 14:00 - 16:30). After registering, individual login details will be provided for each session via a calendar invite to the email provided".

Friday, April 09, 2021

His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

While I am a convinced Republican, who does not believe in a hereditary Head of State, I echo the words of Keir.

“The United Kingdom has lost an extraordinary public servant in Prince Philip.

“Prince Philip dedicated his life to our country – from a distinguished career in the Royal Navy during the Second World War to his decades of service as the Duke of Edinburgh.

“However, he will be remembered most of all for his extraordinary commitment and devotion to The Queen.

“For more than seven decades, he has been at her side. Their marriage has been a symbol of strength, stability and hope, even as the world around them changed – most recently during the pandemic. It was a partnership that inspired millions in Britain and beyond.

“My thoughts are with The Queen, the Royal Family and the British people as our nation comes together to mourn and remember the life of Prince Philip.”

Keir Starmer
Leader of the Labour Party

Thursday, April 08, 2021

We're voting for Change: Newham Governance Referendum May 6, 2021


Dear friends,

Please find attached our latest campaign newsletter; feel free to share and forward to friends and comrades.


- Our brand new leaflets - get in touch if you're able to deliver any in your local area by replying to this email

- Support our crowdfunder! We're raising funds to make a video to maximise our social media reach while physical campaigning is limited.

- Join our Digital Army! Our Whatsapp group will share campaign materials and actions for supporters.

- And catch some of our recent appearances on local media: John Whitworth in Newham Voices ………. John Gray speaks to Puru Miah and Andrew Wood on Relaks Radio’s Politics show ………. Josephine Grahl and Anam Islam chat to Jenny Fisher on East London News’s ‘The Tuesday Show’

In comradeship,

Newham Voting for Change





Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Working for UNISON - Online taster session

 What a great initiative. 

Working for UNISON – Online taster session

29 April 20213:00pm–4:30pm

MS Teams

UNISON is the UK’s largest Trade Union with over 1.3 million members,  around 80% of whom are women. We represent public sector employees at work, support them to speak up with their employers, lobby the Government and campaign for an equal and fair society for all.

UNISON is a diverse union; with democratic structures designed to give a voice to those under -represented in society and positions of power – Disabled members; Black members; LGBT members, Women and Young Members.

We want our staff to represent the diversity of our membership.

The Greater London Region is holding an open taster session for anyone interested in finding out what it’s like working for UNISON – what the different roles are; what skills and experience you need; the process of applying for a job in UNISON London Region and how you can make a difference every day.

This virtual session will be run on MSTeams.

To register please send your full name, contact details (including e-mail address) and where you saw this advert to by 12 noon Tuesday 27th April.

You do not need to be a current union member or activist to attend.

Attendance does not guarantee an interview or future job.