Monday, January 28, 2008

Tower Hamlets Labour Link pushes for London Living Wage.

Today I was invited to attend a lunchtime UNISON Labour Link (APF) meeting with Tower Hamlets Council deputy Leader, Sirajul Islam. Cllr Islam has been a member of UNISON for many years. Before my TUPE transfer I also use to be the Labour Link officer for Tower Hamlets LG branch.

Cllr Islam spoke about his belief that the current industrial dispute over the proposed Tower Hamlets ALMO could hopefully be resolved and how the Labour Council is pressing ahead with its programme to improve services for residents in the borough and how the constructive role of staff is crucial.

Wearing my new hat as UNISON Housing Association Branch Labour Link officer, I asked him what the relationship was with the various RSL’s (Housing associations) in the borough (at the moment mainly “good” apparently) and also whether he would support the idea that all the housing organisations in Tower Hamlets should pay as a minimum a “London Living Wage” (£7.20 per hour) to all employees (including agency workers). There is a proposal that they should all only pay agency and temporary staff the living wage. He promised to look into this idea and report back.

I need to investigate this further, but by co-incidence I recently found out that apparently if you employ agency or contracting workers you have to pay the government 15% VAT on the total cost. Never mind additional agency fees (which VAT is also payable upon) but surely that money could be better used paying staff a “living wage”? At the moment the Council and many RSL’s employ vulnerable workers who are only paid the minimum £5.52 per hour.

We also discussed the forthcoming GLA and Mayor elections and what we can do to help. An interesting fact came out about how the Labour vote across London is so important. In 2004 Ken Livingstone got more actual votes from Richmond (true blue Tory area with a high turn out) than Barking! (Labour but low turn out). Interesting for a number of fairly obvious reasons.

Picture of Cllr Islam with the excellent new Tower Hamlets UNISON Labour Link officer (and Redbridge Labour party activist) Fazlul Chowdhury (left).


Sean said...

What's the Industrial dispute re the ALMO about John? not one I have heard about. Are the Local Government Branch leading a No to ALMO campaign?.Defeating another Borough's attempt to create an ALMO can only help UNISON's policy in support of the 4th option in my opinion. We narrowly failed to do so in Haringey, followed by another even narrower defeat last year in Lambeth: Tower Hamlets is probably the best chance left amongst those who have yet to make a decsion on stock options.

John Gray said...

Hi Sean
Sorry, I should have explained this better. The actual dispute is over office closures and potential redundancies (and health & safety) if the ALMO goes ahead. I believe that there is an indicative strike ballot being carried out. The LG branch are obviously still opposed to the ALMO in principal.