Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quarriers staff to strike on Tuesday 6 September over 20% pay cuts

Quarriers is a 140 year old (mainly) Scottish Social Care charity.  Yet is planning to cut the pay of its staff by up to 23%?  Not only that but it is refusing to agree to even go to ACAS and try to resolve this dispute!

No wonder UNISON Quarriers branch have voted overwhelmingly for strike action next Tuesday 6 September.  The Scottish Parliament Labour Health spokesperson Jackie Baillie has asked the Health Secretary to intervene  "...You do not get good quality care for our most vulnerable citizens on the cheap... I'm calling on her to intervene and stop local authorities engaging in a race to the bottom in terms of care and quality of care. I would also hope she will get on the phone to Quarriers' bosses and urge them to sit down with their union representatives at Acas to thrash out a proper negotiated settlement."

Well said Jackie.  Pick up the phone Quarrier bosses - it's good to talk.

Big NHS Weekend

This weekend has been designated as the BIG NHS Weekend.  Up and down the country the Labour movement will be campaigning - street stalls, door knocking and petitioning - to save our NHS.

We have to let the public know that the Tories are planning to destroy our National Health Service.  Next week the Health Bill comes back to Parliament. In Newham, West and East Ham Labour Parties are planning to help TULO (Trade Union Liaison Organisation) run campaigning events.

UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis makes it clear what he thinks the Tories are up to:-
“Our health service is under siege. If anyone thinks that the NHS is safe in the Coalition’s hands - they better think again.  The Health and Social Care Bill is a Trojan horse bringing in private health companies to take over our health service. In Tory-ward, money talks and if patients don’t have the cash they will find themselves waiting at the end of a very long queue.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nottinghamshire Police civilian staff strike

Good luck to UNISON members of Nottingham Police Civilian staff out on strike today and on Friday over unfair
job cuts.

"(30/08/11) UNISON police staff members in Nottinghamshire are on a 24-hour strike against job losses, with a work to rule to follow.

The members include 999 control staff, PCSOs and detention staff.

Regional organiser Roger Young told the BBC: "It's not about the redundancies in themselves, it's about the way they're doing it.

"We feel that they're wasting resources and potentially identifying people to be made redundant who otherwise would not be so and they may have claims against the force."

General secretary Dave Prentis added: "“The union is full square behind members in Nottinghamshire Police Force taking action over job cuts and restructuring today.

"It is not only their livelihoods on the line – it is community safety."

So far, 170 staff jobs have been lost, while UNISON says a further 746 are at risk.

You can send a message of support to the branch by email: or via Twitter: @unisonnottspol"

Check out BBC report here, UNISON press release here and Notts Police UNISON branch web site here. (picture from website)

Britain's Broken Housing Policy

Floundering Tory Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, was given a good going over this morning on the Radio 4 "Today" programme.  The National Housing Federation (FED) had first drawn blood with a report published today that under present policies home ownership will decline by nearly 10% while prices will increase by over 20%.

The interview started with a recording of a speech by Thatcher to her Party conference in 1986 saying that the great Tory political reform of the 20th century was encouraging more people to own property.  Yet ironically this government's housing policy will reverse home ownership back to 1986 levels.

Actually I think it is a "good thing" that home ownership density is lower but there needs to be far more good quality, affordable and secure rented properties to take its place (and address existing shortages and overcrowding). 

Shapps argument was that he will increase supply by changes in planning and anyway these problems will disappear due to Britain's low interest rates which means mortgages are cheap.  He ignores the NHF prediction that prices will increase by 20% and of course very few people expect 0.5% interest base rates to continue for much longer.  House prices are already too high and even if supply was increased substantially, they will still remain unaffordable.  

What we really need is a housing policy something more like this.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Standing vigil for the NHS

From the "goingtoWork" TUC website - I have added my photo to the online mosaic here

"The dates of the third Commons reading of the controversial Health and Social Care Bill have been announced as the 6th and 7th September. On the evening of the 7th, MPs will vote on the Bill, and if it passes, will send it to the Lords for the next step in its progress.

We want to highlight to our MPs that the nation is watching them as they deliberate the Bill, and to Peers that we expect a great deal of them if they come to take control of the Bill's passage.

Over these two days in September, we will be standing vigil for our NHS - working to make sure everyone is aware of the danger our National Health Service is facing. 

Please take a moment to add your photo to a giant mosaic image we'll be creating to help lobby Parliamentarians. It only takes a minute, but if thousands of us contribute, it could build into a powerful focus to show our legislators the huge levels of public concern over the future of our NHS".

There are also posters to download and new media profile pictures.  We cannot just let this Tory led coalition destroy our NHS.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

While I was away...

I'm catching up on my RSS feeds and emails...

War on Want report "Stitched up" on the gross exploitation of women workers in the Bangladeshi garment industry.  The research is spot on but I was concerned that recommendations failed to mention any action or pressure on pension funds or insurance companies who own the companies that make money out of such misery.  Hat tip Phil T.

Tom P at Labour & Capital on the recent report on directors pensions by the High Pay Commission.  Double standards in boardrooms. Not only are directors paid far more than their workers but they build their pensions at a much higher rate - often with 1/30th DB schemes rather than 1/60th for their staff.

"A FTSE 100 director with a defined benefit pension could be expected to receive a
median annual pension worth £174,963 on retirement. The annual median pension paid from a private sector defined benefit pension scheme was £5,860 for the rest of the work force".

Good to see "Labourhome" back after nearly 2 years offline. Welcome back Alex! I notice that they are moderating comments :)

Astonishing history link from normblog "Trumpeter Landfrey, a bugler in the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaklava (October 25, 1854), sounds the charge again, playing a trumpet that was used at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The recording was made in 1890 and you can listen to it here. (Via.)".

Tribute at UNISONActive here to Newcastle City Branch Secretary and Northern Region Deputy Convenor, Kenny Bell, who died of cancer on August 14.  Kenny was quite simply a top trade unionist and will be sadly missed.   UNISONActive also has a link to this Guardian article on the true cost to workers of outsourcing which I will post further upon later this week.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fatto Storico 28.4.45: Death of Mussolini

Back from a holiday on Lake Como, Italy. One of few things that I knew about the area beforehand was that Mussolini, the Italian fascist dictator, had been captured there by Communist partisans and shot in the village of Mezzegra along with his mistress, Clara Petacci. It was only a few days before the end of the War as he was trying to flee to Switzerland. His body was later hung upside down in a public square in Milan, together with other executed fascists.  

I was staying only 2k away and walked through Mezzegra on route to a day out in the mountains. You cannot miss the “Fatto Storico” signs in the village centre (see photo below double click).

Which is not a slight on Mussolini’s size but Italian for “historical event”. It is some 10 minutes walk from the village square, in what is
now at least a quiet and prosperous looking suburb, overlooked by a large Catholic Church.

There are conflicting accounts on what actually happened but it is on this spot (or thereabouts) in front of the gates of Villa Belmonte that Mussolini was taken out of a vehicle and machine gunned to death by "Colonel Valerio". “Valerio” was a former accountant and civil servant whose real name was Walter Audisio.

I was not sure what to expect but all you get at the scene is this simple cross with “Benito Mussolini 28 April 1945” outside a gate. There was some long dead, dried out flowers on the wall above - and that was it. I suppose in one way, such a squalid and banal end was fitting for one who thought he was one of Nietzsche's supermen

It would have been better for him to have been tried as a war criminal but those who had suffered so much and for so long were entitled to deal with him in a way he had dealt out to so many others. The square he was hung up after death had been used for public executions of civilian hostages and antifascists.

I hadn’t twigged before that the anniversary of his execution (28 April) is now remembered as “Workers Memorial Day”. So – it is a day to remember Sic semper tyrannis as well.  This is I think quite fitting.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Spewful of Lies and Bile

An email was sent out to various London branches this week, full of anti-union bile as well as complete and utter lies, by a former UNISON NEC member (see left) who had resigned after only one meeting. 

These people only want to rule or ruin.  If they cannot rule then they will wreck and split and then go off in yet another childish and pointless huff.  They think that if they keep repeating their newspeak big lies then us proles will believe them. 

We are not all mugs.  No-one, surely by now believes a word that the ultra left toy town revolutionaries SPEW puts out.  They have lost out in an internal dispute within the union.  Their attitude is that they are bigger and better than the union and its democratically elected lay bodies.  They want to rubbish the union in front of the employers at the very same time that the union is trying desperately to defend members.  Sorry, but in my view those who have left don't give a damn about their members only what it will do to further the revolution. 

I was brought up to believe that when you join a union you put the interests of the union and members first and you leave your Party card at home.  Shame on all of them for not doing this.

(Personally Capacity as always).

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ham Park Village Residents Group

This is a picture from last weeks inaugural meeting of a new Residents
Group in my ward that I helped out at as a  facilitator.
This photo image is my London. A local community coming together and working with their Council, the Police and Voluntary Groups to improve the locality.  This image is the real London and the other one of the recent ignorant selfish London mob is the false one.

Residents, the local Police Safer Neighbourhood team and CleanUp UK volunteers met up to discuss tough community problems and possible solutions.  Big and small. As an icebreaker everyone lined up from left to right, according to how long they had lived or served the local community.  The residents on the right of the picture had been amongst the first to move into the estate which was built by Newham Council specifically for young couples on their waiting lists to bring up families 37 years ago.

(Many thanks to the council community engagement officer, the West Ham SNT and CleanupUK for their help - and of course local resident and now Chair of Group Zac).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Alison Seabeck MP to Speak to UNISON Housing Association Branch Labour Link

This should be an interesting meeting.  Housing is the key London issue. An invite has been sent out to all branch levy members inviting them to this meeting. RSPV only.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

"Bang ‘em up" but don’t throw away the key of income equality

 I’ve always thought that this New Labour slogan “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" makes perfect sense. So first things first.  The relatively tiny number of ignorant, selfish, no marks, who have been thieving, threatening and burning, deserve everything that is coming to them.

500 have been nicked in London alone and rest assured that in the coming weeks and months many more will find their front doors being smashed in at dawn by Police armed with arrest warrants. They will also find that the Courts (e.g. Bradford riots) consider such crimes have a “substantial aggravating feature" and they will face exemplary sentences. I’m also sure social landlords will be serving eviction notices on those found guilty of trashing their own communities (or their parents who are responsible for their behaviour). Despite the ample evidence to the contrary, these criminals have free will and are responsible for their own behaviour and must face its consequences. They also know they have done wrong.  

Now the more difficult stuff. “Tough on the causes of crime”. Why have these British citizens, overwhelmingly brought up and educated in this land, decided to act in such a way? Why are they so disconnected with mainstream society? Why the materialistic greed and lust for tacky Primark clothing and cheap Argus electronics? Why don’t other European countries very similar to us in so many other ways, have these such problems? Why the degree of violence and wanton destruction?

I am not going to play the Party political game. While I don’t for a moment think that the Bankers recession and the unnecessary Government cuts haven’t contributed to all this, I think the problem is deeper and wider.  Why us? Is there something wrong with our society?

Maybe this helps explain - why is it that societies that are more unequal statistically have more crime, more violence, more people in prison, more murders, more drug addiction problems, more mental heath illness, more teenage births, less social mobility, less trust and less community spirit.  Is income inequality, the gap between the rich and the poor a major reason for our riots? Please note that I do not simply equate poverty with crime. The vast majority of all people in London who happen to live in deprived neighbourhoods are deeply ashamed of the behaviour of the criminal few. But could income equality  help explain the last few days?  I'm not that interested in blame, I'm more interested in exploring solutions.

Is it only a coincidence that in the UK (and especially London) we have suffered such disturbstances while at the same time we experience such a huge (and growing) disparity in income inequality?  

Check out “The Spirit Level: Why Equality is better for everyone” for some possible answers.

To change things and be really tough on crime and for a possible better quality of life for all, I think we need to look at the evidence of what happens if you have such a gulf between rich and the poor - then act.  

Newham Recorder on local "Copy-cat" attacks

From this morning's online Newham Recorder 07.38am "Damage was done on Newham’s streets last night as youths broke windows and stole goods from shops in a spate of copy-cat attacks, mirroring other parts of London

East Ham MP Stephen Timms praised police for their efforts. He said: “Last evening there was serious damage in High Street North, East Ham, affecting Argos, Primark, Tesco and banks. The current paving work in the High Street has made matters more difficult.

“An electrical shop in Katherine Road was looted, and there have been reports of small groups of teenagers elsewhere committing burglary. “There can be no excuse for this. I applaud the work of the police in dealing with these outbreaks of disorder.”

This morning West Ham United announced they have postponed tonight’s Carling Cup clashes on police advice. The Hammers were set to host Aldershot at Upton Park.

Elsewhere, stones were thrown at the Argos store in Stratford and also police and there were reports of a store being looted.  But the front of Stratford Centre was heavily guarded by police to prevent trouble. They had advised shops in Stratford to close early yesterday

Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales sent a message out to families last night. He said: “You will be aware of the outbreak of pre-planned, violent criminal behaviour across London, including here in Newham. “It is a particular challenge for the police to deal with this level of law breaking. I have already pledged our full support as a council for local police officers in arresting the perpetrators and restoring peace to our streets. You can be assured that we are standing shoulder to shoulder with them in our commitment to a safe borough.

“We have tasked the council’s CCTV operatives with identifying as many of the criminals as possible - either those who were not covering their faces or, where they did cover them, by following them on camera until we got a clear image. I have requested a special edition of the Newham Mag with every available image of a suspect so that everyone in our community can play a part in identifying the perpetrators and bringing them to justice. We are on the side of the vast majority of our residents in showing zero tolerance to this unacceptable and violent criminal behaviour.

“I have asked for our streets to be cleaned and damage repaired as early as possible tomorrow morning - as soon as it is safe for staff to do so. This will ensure the least possible disruption caused to our residents and demonstrate our determination in the face of these attacks.

Our officers - council and police together - are working tirelessly this evening to restore peace and assist our residents. I will be visiting people tomorrow across Newham - residents, shopkeepers, police officers and council staff - to communicate our fullest support and gratitude.

“In the meantime if you have any concerns about further activity or potential incidents then please call 101. If a crime is taking place, then call emergency services on 999.

East London based community anti-racist and police monitoring organisation, Newham Monitoring Project (NMP), called for the community not to be divided following the recent events in north London and Walthamstow, following the death of Mark Duggan:

“The family of Mark Duggan deserve answers for his tragic death. It is crucial that we understand how this incident has touched the nerve of a community who feel ignored and left to wallow in injustice and deprivation. At a community-level we must be cautious not to accept a simplistic version of events that reduces the responses on the streets, subsequent to Duggan’s death, to mere ‘outbursts of criminality’. We must not be divided as this will only serve to heighten existing marginisation. Our united efforts are needed to ensure the next step is not a counter-productive knee-jerk reaction from politicians or police, but instead a real attempt to deliver justice to the Duggan family alongside equality to the community.”

Shops at the Stratford Centre were shut last might following liasons with police about the disorder seen across London which could spread to the town centre. Police numbers have increased around the centre precaution.

Newham Police attended a public meeting last might at St Marks Church and Community Centre in Beckton with Race Equality in Newham to reassure residents and discuss how to proceed.
Newham Police said: “Following the disorder and violence in Tottenham and surrounding areas over the weekend, Newham Police, Newham Council and partners would like to reassure the community that local officers are out on the streets in Newham to engage with the public and continue to protect our community.

“Criminality is never tolerated in Newham and any offenders putting the safety of local people at risk will be brought to justice. “A London wide policing operation is in place to manage any further public disorder in the capital. We are working with our partners and the community with extra resources to ensure Newham residents can go about their daily lives in confidence.”

Operation Withern is investigating the disorder and violence in parts of London. An incident room has been set up and anyone with information should call the Major Investigation Team on 020 8345 4142 but in an emergency always call 999".

(A sensible and non sensational report from the local Newham weekly newspaper.  I'll post further later today)

Monday, August 08, 2011

Joel Bodmer elected as London rep to UNISON National Labour Link

Good news today that Joel Bodmer (seen speaking at NDC) has been elected unopposed as the Greater London Committee member of UNISON National Labour Link. 

Joel is also a member of UNISON Housing Association branch and the new Chair of the National Young Members Forum. 

It would appear that disunited left (aka the "evil ones")  have given up the ghost in London region and are not contesting Labour Link elections. Instead I suppose they will just carry on with the negative  whining and whinging. 

I am also a member of the UNISON National Labour Link committee via the NEC and I am looking forward to working with Joel and the other newly elected sensible left members. 

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Hampstead Heath Walk (Down at the Old Bull & Bush)

Another “off message” glorious Summer Sunday walk. Gospel Oak is only 29 minutes from Wanstead Park station, Forest Gate on the “Overground”. This is a great train service that also gives you a “heads up” on London via a brick viaduct (aka the “magic train”). Come out of Gospel Oak station, turn left and the Heath is only a couple of minutes away.

Walk 12 “In and around London” Pathfinder. Only 4.5 miles but it is surprisingly hilly in parts. While for most of the walk it was pretty busy other parts were very quiet and peaceful. Started at point F of walk near the “Stone of Free Speech”. Which is either a 17th Century “focus of political and religious debate” or a just a trig point. Google it and you get different accounts.

The views of central London from the top of Parliament Hill is very, very impressive (see main pic & double click).

Carry on past the mixed bathing ponds. First pub on route is the Jack Straw Castle which is supposed to be where this leader of the Peasants Revolt in 1381 met his followers. I gave it a miss since it was almost totally rebuilt in the 1960’s. I had planned to have lunch at the “Old Bull and Bush”. This is the pub made famous by the musical hall song “Down at the Old Bull and Bush” (see Florrie Forde YouTube link). I was slightly horrified to find that my expected London Cockney boozer had been converted into a Gastropub! Despite my misgivings, I was starving and thirsty and actually had a first class freshly cooked and tasty meal. Recommended.

A little further on there was the Spaniard Inn. Which I had a quick look (only) around and this was more like your traditional London former coaching inn. It claimed that Dick Turpin was “probably” born here. 

Soon after I bumped into Carolyn from the Unison London regional office who was off to lunch nearby with her youngest son. We had a quick chat about the next regional health and safety committee.

Next was the 18th Century Kenwood House now owned by the English Heritage. The rain then started falling. Not too heavy but enough to make the rest of the walk a bit soggy if not unpleasant. The kids and the dogs in the Heath didn’t seem to mind the rain and carried on playing while the adults ran for shelter. On the way out you were serenaded by live jazz being played in the bandstand. Back home via the magic train. More pics on my Facebook here.

A good day.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

London Labour Councils Condemn Goverment over attack on LGPS

London Regional Secretary, Linda Perks, sent out yesterday news of this welcome policy statement on the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) by London Councils Labour Group. 

"We condemn the arbitrary 3.2% increase in employee contributions to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) announced by George Osborne. This rise will force many current members of the scheme to leave with damaging consequences for them as individuals and the future viability of the scheme itself.

We reject the characterisation of local government pensions as “gold plated” and note that in 2009/10 the average LGPS annual pension was just £4052. We believe that LGPS, being a funded scheme, can be sustainable and affordable.

We believe this proposal seriously undermines these principles. We therefore demand that the chancellor withdraws his proposal and that the Government enters into dialogue with Local Authorities and the Trade Unions to secure the future of the LGPS".

18 out of the 32 London Boroughs are currently run by Labour, although all 32 Labour Groups are signed up to it. Boroughs should be publicising the statement locally.  I am pleased that in May this similar motion was passed unanimously by Newham Council at our AGM.  I understand that other Labour run Councils and Labour Groups have adopted the same motion and policy statements.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Westfield Stratford City visit

 On Wednesday afternoon I went with other Newham Councillors for a tour of the new Shopping centre Westfield in Stratford.  This is my first visit to the site.  It is due to open next month and I think you cannot fail to be impressed by the development itself and the opportunities it will offer the borough.  

The centre is right next to the Olympic Park and will be the biggest City shopping centre in Europe.  Over 1.9 million sq ft, 300 units including John Lewis and Marks & Spencer's. As well as 70 new bars and restaurants.  You can commute from Stratford to St Pancras, central London in less than 10 minutes. I don't really think that all of us who live or work in Newham have quite realised the enormous impact that the Centre and the Olympic Park will have on our lives. 

Update: check visit pics on facebook here

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Show Racism the Red Card: 15th Anniversary Celebration

Last night there was a celebration of the 15th Anniversary of "Show Racism the Red Card" at the new UNISON Centre. This is an "anti-racism charity, which was established in January 1996. The aim of our organisation is to produce anti-racist educational resources, which harness the high profile of professional footballers to combat racism".

UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, opened the event and the host was former professional footballer Leroy Rosenior.

There were a number of high profile footballers, Coaches and managers (all alas unknown to me) present.  The film director Ken Loach (who I did recognise) also gave an award.

There is still racism and bigotry in football but it was made clear that the "beautiful game" has been transformed in recent years. 

Now, I have zero interest in football, but I do think that many people do think they are role models (rightly or wrongly) and that they would pay more attention to footballers talking about how wrong and stupid racism is than any well meaning and earnest anti-racist tract.

Picture of leading London UNISON activists Peter and Louise with Martin Whelton (middle) who is a Labour Councillor (and Cabinet member for Housing amongst other things) for LB Merton and a trade union national officer.

Update: more pictures on FaceBook here

Monday, August 01, 2011

Lord Justice defends Employment tribunals

"In a fascinating judgement handed down today, the Court of Appeal has delivered a robust, compelling and bold defence of the employment tribunal and judicial system". So said Employment law solicitor, Daniel Barnett, in his e-newsletter last Friday about "Red" Lord Justice Mummery's recent judgement.

Now, I must admit that I think there are indeed serious problems with the employment tribunal system. For me the system is unfairly biased against workers and I would like to see it reformed and rebalanced otherwise. 

But, the present government is pushing ahead with plans to get rid of many of the already basic and minimal employment protection and enforcement rights that British workers "enjoy".

So, since we already have possibly amongst the worse employment rights in Europe already it is actually a relief to read that a very senior judge believes that the existing system works and therefore (by implication) does not need to be watered down any further.

The judgement makes a number of points but I think No. 20 is compelling   " for those who complain about the time taken and the legal costs and other expenses and losses incurred, I think that they would want the hearings to be conducted in the interests of justice to both sides. I have seen very few constructive suggestions for practical improvements. If workers are given rights, there must be properly qualified, impartial and independent tribunals to adjudicate on them in accordance with a fair procedure. If workers are not given the necessary means for the just adjudication of their claims, procedures of a more rough and ready non-judicial kind may be used. The alternative procedures would probably not be impartial, independent or just, and are unlikely to do much for public order, social harmony or national prosperity".