Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Vote for Worker Board Members at Walmart AGM for better Governance and to tackle Covid-19 pandemic

Today I took part as a pension trustee in a online seminar with USA Walmart workers and their trade union, about governance and the abysmal response of the retail giant Walmart to the Covid-19 emergency.

Their workers spoke about the dangerously confused and fragmented response by management, which meant that workers and customers were put at unnecessary risk with little or no PPE provided, inadequate or non existent measures to social distance nor proper deep cleaning of stores.

It sounded like a complete and utter "f**k up", made worse by a woeful provision of sick pay for staff if they become ill and inadequate (at best) company medical insurance.

Next week there is the Walmart shareholders Annual General Meeting and there is a resolution calling for some of the company board members to be elected by its own staff.

If you look at what has happened with the very low levels of Covid-19 in Germany, which has had worker board members as a norm for decades, maybe this shows how companies have better governance and are more safely run if they have worker reps on their actual board.

I made the point at the seminar that as a long term investor I don't want for us to invest in a company that treats its staff badly and puts them and its customers at risk in a pandemic. It is not only morally (and legally) wrong but a bad decision to invest in a company that is so poorly run in an emergency that it allows its staff and customers to be put at deadly risk!

The AGM is next week and the motion for elected worker reps is proposal 7. Please contact your Pension or fund managers and if they own stock on your behalf in Walmart let them know your views. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Newham Council response to support Homeless during Covid-19

I was invited by my UNISON branch executive colleague, Lola Oyewusi (who is also a Parish Councillor) to participate in a FaceBook Live discussion on Sunday on supporting the Homeless during Covid-19. 

Lola also invited Cllr Sharon Thompson, who is the Cabinet lead for Housing in Birmingham Council and Cllr  Naushabah Khan, who is the Labour Lead for Housing in Medway Council. 

Unfortunately, I had a clash and was unable to join but I did send this short video about what we are doing in Newham to support the homeless during this pandemic and some thoughts about the future. 

You can view this excellent FaceBook Live interview here

I totally agree with Cllr Thompson view that homelessness is a political choice. The government overnight decided to stop rough sleeping and over a weekend it was reduced by 90%. Also, Cllr Khan, that we must not let the Tories say the Covid-19 crisis is now over and the homeless must now return to the streets, since it is "business as usual". 

Well done to Lola for organising and chairing this important discussion (and remaining so calm despite the technical problems). 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Fight to Save Historic East End Matchgirl’s Grave

"We have written to the Secretary of State for Justice and await his reply. Please rally your MP to help us at least pause this brutal mounding process...

The Matchgirls Memorial
Patrons: Anita Dobson, Diana Holland, Barbara Plant

The Matchgirls Memorial: Registered Company Number 11858820
87 Brookvale Road, Highfield, Southampton, Hampshire, SO17 1QY


Fight to Save Historic East End Matchgirl’s Grave

Support from Parliament to Theatre

MPs, Peers, Unions, and Academics are fighting to save a Matchgirl’s grave from JCBs. Manor Park Cemetery is the resting place of working women’s rights campaigner, Sarah Dearman (née Chapman) but the private Cemetery want hers, and other graves, brutally levelled and ‘mounded’ with additional soil to make way for new money-making plots.

Sarah Chapman was a leader of the famous 1888 Matchgirls Strike in London’s East End. The women worked at the Bryant and May factory in Bow and are seen as the founders of modern unionism and inspiration for the Dockers Strike. The Matchgirl’s story has been told in plays and musicals around the world and was commemorated at the 2012 London Olympics.

Historians, women’s groups and unions have joined Sarah’s family to stop the destruction of this important heritage site. However, the Cemetery Directors will not speak to the family or campaigners and intend to cover her paupers grave within weeks. The family have now written to the Secretary of State for Justice and are supported by MPs, Peers, Academics and Unions. Newham Council has asked the Cemetery for discussion. A petition has 7,000 supporters, including star of stage and screen Anita Dobson, herself a Stepney East End girl.

Anita Dobson said “Sarah and these women fought for our workings rights and to destroy her resting place is abhorrent. People want to come here to pay their respects and remember what she and the Matchgirls achieved for us all”.

Mounding is not recommended by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management. They normally offer advice on alternative methods to increase burial space. In the past, skulls and bones have been visible at the Manor Park site after similar destruction work. The grounds also contain WWII civilian graves including some from the 1943 Bethnal Green tube disaster.

If you have concerns, have family buried at Manor Park, or just want to help, please
CONTACT: Sam Johnson 02380 552 009

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Impact of Covid-19 on homeless

Lola works in housing and is a member of my UNISON branch. I have a clash tomorrow but I have sent Lola a 3 minute video with our experience in Newham London and some ideas about the future. I will be watching later to find out what is happening in Birmingham and Medway.

Friday, May 22, 2020

"build affordable Homes for Heroes"

Very interesting (and topical) housing initiative led by G15. Key workers don't just deserve a "clap" on a Thursday (as much as many appreciate it) they need access to decent pay, conditions and access to safe, secure and truly affordable housing.

"Join us to build affordable Homes for Heroes

An alliance of housing associations, offsite manufacturing firms and many others across the property sector has launched a call to the private, public and charitable sectors to join together to build low cost Homes for Heroes, to thank our heroic essential workers who’ve kept Britain going during the coronavirus outbreak.

Inspired by the ‘Homes fit For Heroes’ programme after the First World War, the group has set out a broad outline of how 100,000 new affordable homes for these workers, could be built throughout the country. The alliance, which includes the G15, stand ready to deliver but would be able to do much more in partnership with the Government, the private sector, local councils, health trusts and charities.

From NHS staff, to care workers, teachers, refuse collectors, delivery workers and many more, Homes for Heroes would see the construction of good quality affordable homes which are well designed, energy efficient and digitally connected. The homes should be equipped with private outside areas and access to high quality green spaces. They should be affordable to heroes on the lowest incomes and include options for essential workers to buy an affordable home of their own – something that is out of reach in many of our cities.

To work at scale the efforts of housing associations would need to be supplemented by a large programme of public and corporate giving, innovative use of public land, planning flexibilities and an expansion in manufacturing capacity to build high-tech homes in factories.

Precision manufactured homes would be faster, greener, cheaper and better quality and give an economic boost to the parts of the country that needs it most. As well as providing good quality places for our essential workers to live, a sustained Homes for Heroes building programme would support economic and social recovery.

The G15 is already housing many thousands of essential workers. Social housing is home to one third of London’s police officers and ambulance staff, and one third of workers in care-related jobs.

The G15 has created a report on how Homes for Heroes can be delivered, resting on four building blocks:

  1. Create a national programme of low-cost homes prioritised for the heroes who have put themselves at risk to keep us alive and healthy throughout this crisis.
  2. Deliver an initial burst of thousands of homes within months, by matching government funding with housing association resources to make completed homes and those under construction available on a low cost basis for essential workers
  3. Support a high-tech manufacturing base to create jobs across the country - powering a long-term ambitious programme to deliver the low-cost homes our heroes need,
  4. Spread the costs across society by part-funding the homes through public giving, public land, government funding and housing associations’ resources".

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Do you have a question for the Newham Health and Wellbeing Board about Covid-19?

Do you have a question for the Newham Health and Wellbeing Board about Covid-19?

On Wednesday 27 May, at 6pm, Newham Health and Wellbeing board will be answering some of your questions about Covid-19. Do you have a question about the nature of the pandemic, Newham’s response to the health emergency Covid-19 created, or how Newham council, NHS and health partners will need to adapt or react in the future? If you’d like to ask a question on one of these topics, or any other relating to Covid-19’s impact on Health and Wellbeing, please submit your question to by Monday 25 May.  You will be able to watch the Health and Wellbeing Board and hear answers to some of the submitted questions at Newham’s Facebook live site.

About Newham Health and Wellbeing Board

The organisations that work on this Board include the London Borough of Newham council officers who manage Adults and Health, Children Services, Public Health, NHS Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (NCCG), Newham University Hospital (part of Barts Health NHS Trust), East London Foundation Trust and HealthWatch Newham, who provides a voice for residents.

The board is co-chaired by Rokhsana Fiaz, Mayor of Newham and Dr Muhammed Naqvi chair of Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (NCCG) and local GP.

Putting Newham Residents at the Heart of Everything We Do.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wanstead flats babies (and a striking red)

Off message but main photo from Saturday run with Gill (or "very slow jog") and cute picture of Canadian Geese family alongside Alexandria Lake, in Wanstead flats.

Below is a lovely moth or butterfly, we came across when stretching outside the Golden Fleece pub.

Anyone know what it is? I have searched Google images but cannot find an exact match?

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


Regional Tribute

"It is with great sadness that we report the death of our much loved friend and comrade Denis Keatings, Joint Regional Convenor of UNISON NI. He will be greatly missed by generations of UNISON members whose causes he championed throughout his entire working life.

Denis joined NUPE in the 1970s and was part of the historic struggle known as the Winter of Discontent, when public service workers engaged in sustained strike action for pay justice. For his fearless leadership Denis was soon elected as Convenor of the Mater Hospital, then part of the NUPE's largest branch, North & West Belfast District Health Branch, covering the Mater, the Royal Victoria Hospitals and social services across the North and West of the city.

He campaigned for equal pay for the women cleaners, successfully spearheaded the fight against privatisation of catering and cleaning services at the Mater and supported our members through some of the darkest times of 'the Troubles'. In 1993 UNISON was born and the Mater Hospital became a union branch in its own right. Denis was immediately elected Branch Secretary, a position he would be continuously returned to for more than 20 years until, having won the confidence of the entire membership of UNISON in Northern Ireland, he was elected as our Joint Regional Convenor.

Denis was a trade unionist to his core. He wanted nothing more than justice and fair treatment for our members and they in turn loved him for it. We all did. He was a big, fearless, loyal fighter with a generous heart. There was no task he would not tackle, serving the members in the workplace, across Northern Ireland, at UNISON UK level and in the ICTU.

He tackled injustice wherever he found it, whether it was the denial of workers rights, death threats against health workers, attempts to downgrade his beloved Mater Hospital, the plight of the homeless in North Belfast or the plight of the Palestinian People.

We are proud to call Denis a UNISON activist. We pay tribute to the enormous contribution he has made to our union. We will miss him deeply. We send our love to his partner Elaine and his whole family.

Patricia McKeown, Regional Secretary

National Tribute

Dear Colleagues

Tuesday 19 May sees the funeral of Denis Keatings, UNISON Northern Ireland joint regional convenor. Denis’ colleagues at Mater Hospital will pay tribute at 10.25 as his funeral cortege passes the hospital. If you’d like to pay a virtual tribute to a lifelong champion for working people, please print out this heart and take a photograph of yourself holding it, or add it to your social media profile at 10.25 on Tuesday. You can add your own words or use these: We stand in tribute to Denis Keatings, our thoughts are with his family, his friends and our UNISON family today.



My Tribute

At 10.25 today.

Monday, May 18, 2020

"earliest known photo of a mass gathering of people in London - the Chartist meeting on Kennington Common, 10 April 1848"

Hat tip Ali G

"This is a daguerreotype (an early form of photograph) of the Chartist meeting held at Kennington Common on 10th April 1848. It was the last time the Chartists attempted to present a petition to Parliament. Fearing an attempted revolution, the Government prepared immensely for the meeting and filled London with 85,000 special constables, as well as putting 8,000 soldiers on alert. 

Although there were probably upwards of 20,000 (perhaps as many as 50,000) people present, the meeting was a peaceful one. As the crowd dispersed Feargus O’Connor and the Chartist Executive delivered the petition to Parliament in a series of coaches. O’Connor claimed the petition had 5,700,000 signatures, but when the clerks in the House of Commons examined it, they found it to feature less than two million names. 

These included a number of falsely-signed names, such as those of Queen Victoria, Sir Robert Peel and The Duke of Wellington, which only served to discredit the petition further. Despite the huge amount of legitimate signatures, Parliament did not take the petition seriously and it was rejected".

Taken from: Daguerreotype of the Chartist meeting at Kennington Common
Date: 10th April 1848
Copyright: The Royal Collection © 2009, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II