Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Public Cost of Poverty Wages

This cost is to the USA taxpayer but I suspect very much  that the problem is still the same over here across the pond. Lots of companies are "successful" but depend upon the tax payer to subsidise their poverty wages. They also don't pay tax on their profits but that is another (but very important) issue.

Next time you have a Big Mac think that you are not only paying good money to buy this burger but your taxes are also going to subsidise this very rich and profitable company and its payment of poverty wages to its staff. Something very wrong here I think?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Building a pensions system people can trust – another victory for Labour

Hat tip Labour List. "Today sees another victory for Labour in the battle to build a pensions system people can trust. When over a year ago Ed Miliband called for action on pensions rip-offs the Government dismissed this as scaremongering. Now minsters have finally been forced to act.

In reaction to Ed’s intervention when asked about the possibility of a cap on charges, Pensions Minister Steve Webb dismissed a cap, saying:

“why doesn’t the Government set a price cap on a tin of baked beans? We don’t need to because there’s a vibrant market, people have lots of choice.”

But a year after Ed raised the issue the Government has finally launched a consultation on a charge cap and agreed to intervene in this broken market. In doing so they have exposed their failure to address the broken energy market for what it is: an inability to stand up against the Big Six to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Why was Ed right?

With the current cost of living crisis, squeezed families who struggle to put money aside need to know that the pensions into which they save offer good value for money. But British savings are at risk of being sliced and diced to line the pockets of fund managers and insurance giants. If we want people to save, we need to restore trust in private pensions, and that means making this broken market work.

If we don’t act now there’s a real danger that employees will opt out of saving for a pension, rightly fearing that they might not be getting value for money. This is why Labour has pushed hard for amendments to the Pensions Bill that put the interests of savers first, with full transparency on all costs and charges. Despite following Labour’s lead on the price cap, the Government yesterday voted against our amendments

But we will continue to pressure the Government to take further action to re-make this broken market. This is what Labour says the Government should do in addition to a price cap.

First, the government should impose a legal requirement that all pension scheme providers must prioritise the interests of savers above those of shareholders. Second, the Government lift restrictions on the state backed pension provider NEST, whose pro-saver approach has forced private providers to improve their performance to a degree. And third, the Government should learn the recent lessons from Australia and change the rules to recognise that scale is important in ensuring pension schemes and trustees can negotiate the best deals for savers.

Labour’s amendments to the Pension bill offered the Tory-led Government one last chance to make this legislation comprehensive, coherent and value for money for the 10 million Britons who are now being automatically enrolled in private pensions.

But this out-of-touch Tory-led government will always drag its heels when it comes to standing up for hard pressed working families and challenging powerful interests.

Today’s announcement shows the clear role governments have in stepping in to fix broken markets when competition fails. The question for the Tory-led Government now is if it is acceptable to intervene and place a permanent cap on pension charges why do they remain so opposed to a 20 month freeze in energy prices?

Time and time again this government has shown itself incapable of standing up to powerful vested interests. The cap on pension charges confirms David Cameron’s opposition to freeze on energy prices isn’t based on principle – it’s simply that he is unwilling to stand up to the Big 6 energy companies.

As Ed Miliband said at Labour Party Conference last month the real test of leadership is “whether you stand up to the strong and know who to fight for”. David Cameron has failed this test. Labour will continue to lead the fight to stand up for ordinary people and tackle the cost of living crisis.

Gregg McClymont is the Shadow Pensions Minister

HIGHER EDUCATION STRIKE 31ST OCTOBER 2013: London picket lines

"As you’ll be aware UNISON members working in Higher Education have voted to take strike action due to the low pay offer from employers of 1%. These members have seen their pay cut by 13% over the last 4 years and yet nationally Universities have amassed a surplus of over £1.1 billion!

All of the 22 University branches in London will have pickets on entrances to their main campus buildings from 7am; please show your support by attending your nearest university picket line (outside of your working hours); publicise the strike with your members and also send the link below to an online petition calling for Fair Pay in Higher Education.

For more information on the dispute please visit the UNISON webpages

University main campus addresses

Birkbeck College
University of London
Malet Street

Brunel University
Kingston Lane

City University
Northampton Square

Goldsmiths College
Lewisham Way
SE14 6NW

Imperial College
Exhibition Road

Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way

Kings College London

Kingston University
Penrhyn Road
Kingston upon Thames

London Metropolitan University
166-220 Holloway Road
N7 8DB

London School Economics
Houghton Street

South Bank University
103 Borough Road

Middlesex University
The Burroughs

Queen Mary & Westfield College
Mile End Road
E1 4NS

Senate House
University of London
Malet Street

School of Oriental & African Studies
10 Thornhaugh Street

University of West London
Walpole House
18-22 Bond Street
W5 5AA

University of East London
Stratford Campus
Romford Road
E15 4LZ

University College London
Gower Street

University of Westminster
115 New Cavendish Street

University of Greenwich
Avery Hill Road

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

St Jude and Wanstead Park

Off message but early this morning I went for a glorious run around Wanstead Park. It was less than 24 hours since the storm "St Jude" struck Southern England. In contrast to yesterday, it was sunny, bright and dry.

There were a number of trees blown over or snapped off in the Park. A carpet of broken branches and leaves on the ground but remarkably little obvious wide spread damage.

I saw  a cheeky young fox near the stables who thought if s/he stood very still I wouldn't notice. I kept watching until the fox got bored with me and sat down.

Hat tip for pictures to Richard at the Friends of Wanstead Park website. 

The Inaugural George Lansbury Memorial Lecture - 7 November 2013

The Inaugural George Lansbury Memorial Lecture

Thursday 7 November, 6.30pm

'George Lansbury's Legacy for the Labour Party'

Speaker: Jon Cruddas MP

The Great Hall, People's Palace
Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, E1 4NS"

"George Lansbury (1859-1940) remains amongst the best-loved figures in East End history, most famous for his part in the Poplar rates rebellion in 1921. His long and varied career also included his pioneering role in the development of the Labour movement, his early support for women's suffrage, the founding and editing of left-wing newspapers and prominence as a Christian Socialist and Pacifist. From 1932-35 he was the Leader of the Labour Party.

The George Lansbury Memorial Committee was formed in 2011 to celebrate his life, work and legacy, encourage awareness of his contribution to local and national life, and to promote contemporary reflection upon the various causes Lansbury made his own. It is therefore particularly appropriate for us to have Jon Cruddas as the first George Lansbury Memorial lecturer. Jon is the Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham and the party’s Policy Co-ordinator. We are delighted that someone with this position and responsibility will be reflecting on Lansbury’s legacy for the party he helped to start and shape.

Booking Information This event is free to attend, but please book tickets online in advance. If you have any questions regarding this event, please email:" hat tip Tower Hamlets Libraries and Archives newsletter. 

(NB I use to be the estate officer for George Lansbury House in Bow. 7 November is also the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution and Trotsky's Birthday!)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Why Union £ is the cleanest in politics : Moonlighting MPs - the politicians with second jobs in financial services

From Money Marketing: This is so, so wrong. Hat tip Gregg McClymont MP.

"The revolving door of former FCA regulators joining banks and accountancy firms has created understandable hostlilty from advisers but it is also worth taking a look at the MPs with commercial interests associated with financial services.

Every MP working in financial services is a Conservative with some working up to nine hours a week and earning hundreds of thousands of pounds in outside income.

All data is published on the House of Commons’ register of members’ financial interests and only includes regular remunerated employment for financial services firms:

Former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell has been hired by Investec as a senior strategic adviser earning £60,000 a year for 10 days work. Alongside serving as an MP for Sutton Coldfield, Mitchell will work almost a day a month for the bank. 

MP for Cardiff North Jonathan Evans
Jonathan Evans earns £110,000 a year for 14 hours work a month as non-executive chairman for Phoenix Holdings including Phoenix Life Assurance, National Provident Life and Phoenix Life.
Evans is an FCA approved person and chairs monthly board meetings in London as well as regularly advising the firms’ executive officers.

Until 3 December 2012, he was non-executive director and chairman of London Life Limited and Phoenix Pensions. "Until 7 August 2013 I was also non-executive director and chairman of NPI".
On the register of members’ interests, Evans says: “These companies are long established life assurance and pensions companies, closed to new business and now owned by Phoenix Group (formerly Pearl Group) of which I was group chairman from 2005 to 2009.”

MP for Cities of London and Westminster Mark Field
Mark Field works as an adviser to Cains Advocates, an international law firm, assisting with its international strategy, ambassadorial work and advising on Government and parliamentary aspects of financial services.He is paid around £40,000 a year for approximately 10 hours a month work.

MP for North East Somerset Jacob Rees-Mogg
Jacob Rees-Mogg is director of investment management firm Somerset Capital Management LLP.
He was paid around £134,400 in the last year for 35 hours a month work at the firm.

 MP for Sutton Coldfield Andrew Mitchell
Investec has hired Andrew Micthell for £60,000 a year for 10 days week. The former Chief Whip was forced to quit the cabinet last year after he was accused of swearing at a policeman and calling them “plebs”.

MP for Mid Sussex Nicholas Soames
Nicholas Soames is a senior adviser on insurance and related financial services to insurance broker and risk advisers, Marsh Group .He attends meetings and advises on business opportunities and earns £92,880 a year for 15 hours a month.

MP for Tonbridge and Malling Sir John Stanley
Sir John Stanley is a consultant on financial services to Fidelity, attending meetings as necessary and advising on business opportunities and risks.He earns £21,600 a year for between five and eight hours per month.

MP for Louth and Horncastle Sir Peter Tapsell
Peter Tapsell is an international adviser to the Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation (Japan); a Japanese Trust Bank in both Japan and overseas.He earns £30,000 a year, paid semi-annually, for around 10 hours work a month.

MP for North Herefordshire Bill Wiggin
Bill Wiggin is a non-executive director international finance firm Philip T English International Financial Services.He earns approximately £5,000 a year for 60 hours work a year.

MP for Rochford and Southend James Duddridge
James Duddrige is an adviser on strategy and business development to  Wilcocks & Associates, a financial planning firm in Liverpool. Duddridge receives £6,000 a year for an expected commitment of approximately one day per month.

Wealth inequality in the UK

Please spend a few minutes to watch this video on wealth inequality. Regardless of the moral and economic arguments I think that unless we tackle such inequality our nation will eventually disintegrate.

"Inequality has been rising for 30 years. The gap between rich and poor is the widest since the second world war. If current trends continue, we will have reached Victorian levels of inequality in 20 years. Sign up to our weekly email briefings to get the full facts."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

West Ham Labour Party GC and "a lot of love" for Royal Mail Strike 4 November

At our monthly West Ham Labour Party General Committee meeting last Thursday evening, we had Ryan Ward as our guest speaker. Ryan is a steward for the union CWU and has been a postal worker for the last 25 years. He had been up since 4.30am that morning.

Ryan spoke about the privatisation of Royal Mail and the strike to defend pay and conditions on Monday 4 November.

He criticised the luke warm support & private briefings against the CWU from some senior Labour figures compared with the grass root support shown at the Party conference last month.

The Sun (which Ryan regrets is read by some postal workers) has reported that Royal mail staff will pocket £3,000 in shares then go on strike. The truth is that they will not get any shares for at least 3 years! They will also lose the shares if they strike.

Royal Mail has not had a national strike for 3 years and the average pay is around £300 per week with little chance of overtime.  His partner also works for Royal Mail for similar money. Most of his wage is taken up with rent to a private landlord and on the rest they have to bring up 3 children.

He asked Party members to go to the picket line on November 4th to show support. Following this West Ham CLP TULO officer (and UNISON NEC member), Kim Silver, thanked Ryan for explaining about the dispute and offering the support of local members and trade unions. Party activists are also planning to hold stalls in Stratford High Street to support the dispute. Ryan was pleased with Kim's statement and said it was not often you got such support nowadays for this sort of action. 

In the Q&A that followed Ryan criticised Chuka Umunna MP for ducking out of a question on TV  whether Labour would re-nationalise Royal Mail if they won office. He thought that a commitment would have helped put off investors. He answered a question about what the CWU realistically expected from strike action by pointing out that the strike was about pay and conditions and that privitisation is not inevitable. Railtrack is now publicly owned again.

I made the same point to Ryan that I made to Andy Burnham MP the night before (see link) that we need to make the case for public ownership and the public sector ethos. Private companies are good at making things such as cars or smart phones but they are rubbish at running natural monopolies such as Royal Mail or health services such as hospitals.

After Ryan spoke we later had our MP Lyn Brown give her Parliamentary report (this is private and confidential). Lyn  was congratulated at the meeting for her recent appointment as a Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government. 

Later I noticed this tweet from West Ham ward member and 2014 Forest Gate North Labour Candidate, Seyi Akiwowo, ‏"A lot of love in this room tonight for Ryan and his colleagues at Royal Mail @ WestHamLabour GC". 

Forgotten Heroes - Remembering the Muslim sacrifice in the battle against tyranny

On Thursday I casually retweeted an interesting looking tweet from Rokeby School about "Remembering the sacrifice of Muslim soldiers, who gave their lives and their limbs in the name of duty"

Today I had a closer look at the tweet and its link to this article and video.

I would recommend that all EDL and UKIP supporters should read about the sacrifice of Muslim soldiers in the first and second world war, who fought and gave their lives to save Britain from tyranny and for their King.

Some highlights:-

"Visit the Menin Gate at Ypres in Belgium and you will see these and numerous other obviously Muslim names on the memorial that is dedicated to the commemoration of soldiers killed in the Ypres Salient of the First World War, whose resting places are unknown. It is a large Hall of Memory, honouring 54,896 British and Commonwealth soldiers who could not be buried, their names cut into vast panels.

"The marble in Ypres that bear these names will endure, but they remain cold and silent. As a country – and as Muslims in particular – we have failed to honour the memory of those who fought to protect the freedoms we enjoy today. The memorial in Ypres testifies to the service of Muslim soldiers but we, their descendants and their debtors, have neglected to remember the scope of their sacrifice"

"Military historian Major Gordon Corrigan says the role of the British Indian Army was vital to the war effort; had they not helped fortify the front line during the First World War the Germans might well have broken through and made it to the ports on the English Channel. “The Punjabi Musselman was regarded as the backbone of the old Indian army, and constituted about a third of the British Indian Army. Known for their reliability, they were steady men who could be depended on to carry out any task at hand.”

"From the trenches "In May 1915 Subadar Muhammad Agia of the 57th Rifles wrote, “It is just like the grinding of corn in a mill; there is no counting the number of lives lost. Not a single British or native officer of the old regiment is left, and not one sepoy.”

"British officers who led Indian regiments immersed themselves in the culture of India; learning to speak the same language, even eating the same food as the men they were leading. Major Corrigan explains, “The reason the British were better at running armies not of their race was because of the accommodations they made; unlike the French who would make recruits learn their language, the British Officer was expected to learn the language of his men. Urdu was the official language of the Indian Army at the time but they also had to learn regional dialects and have specialist knowledge of the religious needs of their men.”

"Stationed in France at the time of Eid in July 1917, Abdul Ali Khan wrote, “All of the Muslims of the Division had their prayers together and the assembly was close to our regiment. We, as far as possible, gave them food and tea. About 1,500 men assembled and prayers were offered for the victory of our King.”

"so important was the Muslim contribution in both World Wars that Churchill himself wrote, “We must not on any account break with the Muslims who represent 100 million people and the main army elements which we must rely on for the immediate fighting.”

"Field Marshall Sir Claude Auchinleck, a British army commander during World War II, “Britain couldn’t have come through both wars if they hadn’t the Indian army.”

"there was also the Palestine Regiment; and in World War II Arabs and Jews fought together under the British flag against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy".

"World Wars I and II connect every family in Britain. “If more was known about the contribution of so many Muslim soldiers of the British Indian Army, it might help to restore a sense of pride, and cement the social bonds of different communities in British society,” Jahan suggests. “This would turn the idea of a shared heritage into a meaningful weapon against prejudice.”

"The recognition of a shared past has the potential to give us a sense of a shared future; a future not marred by war, but rather one of contributing to the common good. That is why this Remembrance Day we must honour all those who died, including the Muslims who gave their lives for the freedom of this country".

...and so say I. Last Remembrance Day I went to Menin Gate at Ypres in Belgium and you could clearly see the names on the monument of the many Muslim, Sikh and Hindu soldiers who died in Flanders fields.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Croeso i Newham Ted!

My fellow North Walian Gog and Tower Hamlets blogger, Ted Jeory has moved to Canning Town in Newham.

I had a pint in his Dad's pub in April.

While I better go and check my register of interests is up to date I will also have to go and door knock him to find out if he will be voting Labour now he lives in the Peoples Republic.

I will promise not to let his employers know (he is the Home Affairs Editor of the Sunday Express)


Galloway & Respect being taken for chumps by Community politics

"Respect councillors in Bradford resign en masse George Galloway's party in disarray as its five city councillors resign amid growing internal dissent". Headline in yesterday's Guardian about the latest split in the latest version of the ill named political party "Respect". The Councillors accuse Galloway of trying to "marginalise and excommunicate party members who raise legitimate concerns".  While the Gorgeous one himself says of them "If they had a shred of principle they would now resign their council seats and stand again in their new colours."

I don't know the exact ins and outs of Bradford politics but while I know that Galloway's egotism, megalomania and laziness as a MP would have contributed to the split, it seems once again, local communities are taking him and his ultra left cronies for a ride.

I have come across respect activists who openly admit that they will use Galloway and his allies to finance and organise elections but they have no interest or sympathy in their domestic politics and as soon as possible will dump them.

How on earth a motley crew of mostly middle class, Trotskyite, militant atheists feel they have anything in common with conservative minded Muslim businessmen has always been beyond me.

(picture of Newham Respect former headquarters)

Friday, October 25, 2013

London Labour Health Network Launch - Saving our NHS

On Wednesday evening I was at the launch of the London Labour Health Network at the House of Commons. This is a new Labour campaign group to protect NHS services in London.

London CLPs, MPs, AMs, Councillors with health briefs and affiliates were invited to the launch. I was part of the UNISON delegation.

Linda Perks, Vice Chair of London Labour Party and Regional Secretary for UNISON chaired the event with London Shadow minister, Sadiq Khan MP.

See London Labour Party report here while I tweeted on the event here

Sadiq opened the launch stressing the key role that the NHS will play in the elections next year in London and 2015. First speaker was Labour Lord, Phil Hunt who reminded everyone that Tory David Cameron was able to neutralise the issue of the NHS in 2010 due to his promise to keep it safe. He has failed to keep this promise and we must remind voters.

Linda Perks spoke about the NHS being the 2nd most important issue in London next to the cost of living crisis. In order to convince voters we need to make sure that the Party manifesto commits to the fair funding that will be necessary.  The London Labour Party will set up a  network of campaigners on health in London.

Labour Shadow Health Minister, Andy Burnham MP, officially launched the campaign. Andy said that Labour must lead the fight to save the NHS that they made and then saved in the last government.

He told us that we have to inspire people and stop agonising on our record in the last government.  Yes, we made mistakes, such as letting in the market but we should be proud of the NHS in 2010. We need to put people before profit, we need a public health service, we need to bring into the NHS  integrated care. Labour will repeal the Tory Health & Social Care Act. Labour needs to get this  message across to voters on their doorstep.

Andy then spent around 30 minutes in a wide ranging Q&A. I asked at the end that firstly we need to defeat the Tories in elections but also that we need to make the wider political case for publicly provided services and the public sector ethos.  This will stop the drift to the "market knows best" that did take place in the Party in recent years.

Andy broadly agreed and answered by saying he is not neutral over who should be the main provider of NHS services.  He compared the unnecessary privatisation of Royal Mail and the Tories intention to do the same with our NHS. Its time to question the mantra: public bad, private good.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Welfare spending: truth, lies and myths

This table shows yet again that contrary to the untruthful right wing media in this country the biggest single element of welfare spending in this country by far (46%) is spent on the state pension not the unemployed or sick.

This does not mean that all welfare spending is spent wisely and that we do need to keep a careful eye on all expenditure but we need to challenge the nonsense out there about who really benefits from our welfare state.

Hat tip Chart to Ravi Subramanian, UNISON West Midlands Regional Secretary who sourced the stats from this report.

Future Directions Striker speaks at UNISON London Regional Council

Yesterday was the UNISON London Regional Council meeting chaired by our Regional Convener, Gloria Hanson.

The first speaker was Alan Tate (left of picture) from the Communications union, CWU, who spoke about the privatisation of Royal Mail.

There was no need to do this - Royal Mail had been transformed in recent years and was making money. Why can Railtrack be publicly owned and still able to access the capital markets for investment but Royal Mail could not? The tax payers have been ripped off not only by the below value share offering but the loss of huge Royal Mail property assets across the Country.

CWU will go on strike November 4th if they cannot reach a deal on pay and to protect pay and conditions.

Next speaker was UNISON Senior National officer (not in picture) Donna Rowe-Merriman, who briefed us the Higher Education joint union strike over pay, which will take next Thursday 31 October. The pay claim is affordable and HE institutions can afford to pay more but choose not to while thousands of their directly employed staff are not even paid a living wage but exist on minimum wage rates. Further details of the strike action and regional rally's to follow. 

Final Speaker was Karen Shadwell (2nd from right), UNISON member of Rochdale branch. Karen is a disability support worker with high needs clients. She works for an organisation called "Future Directions" who are cutting her pay by nearly £100 per week.  She and her colleagues have been on strike for 29 days in recent months. Check out my past posts related to this dispute here, here and here. She was supported at this meeting by UNISON Local organiser, Karen Ellis.

Karen was an inspiration and received a standing ovation at the end of her speech. She had been up at 5am this morning in order to get here in time and was very nervous beforehand since  this was her first ever speech to such a meeting. Her speech was excellent. As her UNISON NEC member for Community, I offered her and her colleagues my support.

We have recently agreed in London for a donation  to the strike fund and sent a message of support. You can send messages of support and donations to Helen Harrison, branch secretary, Rochdale UNISON, 46 Richard Street, Rochdale, OL11 1DU. Email: Cheques can be made payable to Rochdale UNISON.

UNISON and her Future Directions had been to talk at ACAS on Friday and Monday. Hopefully a satisfactory result will be reached.

(2nd from left in picture is our London Equalities Convener Yvonne Green and behind her a bit obscured, Karen Ellis ). Hat tip photograph Karen Westwood.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The real reason for the UNISON United left split

Defeat of LRC JR by SWP John Mac in the individual dance off (4 Minutes 40 secs) was the final straw. SPEW played the music. Hat tip Workers Truth

(apologies to indeed the Best Bluegrass Clog Dancing Video ever made)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tories, Fidelity & your savings policy being used to fund them.

A little late but more on Tory "fund" manager Fidelity doing what it does best - funding Tories! - from Tom P at Labour and Capital.

Fidelity are (or were) the single biggest corporate funder of the Conservative Party. In the last 4 years they have given them £400,000.

I understand that they now have lots of competition for this title from various other Tory financial sponsors.  See chart above about the rise in funding by the financial sector.

Tom P "I was Googling around on Fidelity and the Tories last night and came across this story from 2007. What caught my eye was this comment -

“We do not comment on our political donations. We do not endorse political candidates and generally we take a non-partisan approach with politics.”

I still think the "non-partisan" claim is hilarious, frankly, but the bit that struck me was that line about not endorsing political candidates. As far as I am aware this is true. But Fidelity does have a Conservative MP it employs as a consultant who seems to be paid pretty much every month.

Sir John Stanley's register of interests is here. Here are the Fidelity contributions:

2. Remunerated employment, office, profession, etc.

Consultant on financial services to FIL Investment Management Ltd (formerly known as Fidelity Investment Management Ltd), Oakhill House, Hildenborough, Kent TN11 9DZ.

£1,800 received for attending meetings as necessary and advising on business opportunities and risks. Hours: 7 hrs. (Registered 23 May 2012)

£1,800 received for attending meetings as necessary and advising on business opportunities and risks. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 27 June 2012)

£1,800 received for attending meetings as necessary and advising on business opportunities and risks. Hours: 6 hrs. (Registered 20 July 2012)

£1,800 received for attending meetings as necessary and advising on business opportunities and risks. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 21 August 2012)

£1,800 received for attending meetings as necessary and advising on business opportunities and risks. Hours: 6 hrs. (Registered 2 October 2012)

£1,800 received for attending meetings as necessary and advising on business opportunities and risks. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 29 October 2012)

£1,800 received for attending meetings as necessary and advising on business opportunities and risks. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 21 November 2012)

£1,800 received for attending meetings as necessary and advising on business opportunities and risks. Hours: 7 hrs. (Registered 24 December 2012)

£1,800 received for attending meetings as necessary and advising on business opportunities and risks. Hours: 6 hrs. (Registered 29 January 2013)

£1,800 received for attending meetings as necessary and advising on business opportunities and risks. Hours: 7 hrs. (Registered 22 February 2013)

£1,800 received for attending meetings as necessary and advising on business opportunities and risks. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 25 March 2013)

£1,800 received for attending meetings as necessary and advising on business opportunities and risks. Hours: 6 hrs. (Registered 16 April 2013)

(Note Fidelity now appears as 'FIL' rather than 'Fidelity' both here or when making donations).

Check out more Tory/Fidelity connections by Tom here!

Hat tip chart If you do not want any of the profits from managing your pension or investment policy to be given to David Cameron or his mates then please check that they are not run in any way by Fidelity. If they are then let your fund administrators or trustees know your views.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Wake up & smell the Coffee: Do not expect the State to give you Justice at Work

Tomorrow UNISON is taking the Government to court in a judicial review of the decision to charge as much as £1,200 to take your employer to an employment tribunal. If you lose then expect to pay £1,600 to go for any appeal.

This is on top of any solicitor or barrister costs you might have to pay.

As this chart from the Employment Tribunal service indicates claims have not surprisingly dropped like a stone with the imposition of charges. While these figures are provisional it would seem to be clear that only the rich will be able to get justice at work in the future.

Except for union members. I think all the major unions have agreed to pay these charges upfront and supply free legal advice and representation if (and this is important) they think a member has a winnable case.

Remember that you cannot just join a union when you have a problem at work and expect representation.  It is like trying to buy household insurance after you have had a fire. All unions have waiting periods.

So join a union now! If you work in public service then join UNISON of course here 24/7. Or check out the TUC Union finder website.

Best of all is that the more people in your workplace who are in a union, the better you will be treated by your employer and the less likely you will ever need to go to an employment tribunal!

So - as they say over the pond - wake up and smell the coffee. The State will not give you justice at work, the only one who can, is your union.

Hat tip Captain Swing and Daniel Barnett employment law e-news alert.

Time to Say Goodbye to UNISON United Left

Following the latest example of appalling behaviour by the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), Nick and MJT announce to the massed ranks of UNISON United Left that it is time to say goodbye. They follow the wreckers and splitters at SPEW and will now have to find a new path to the political wilderness.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Door knocking in Butchers Road, Canning Town

Picture from this Saturday's door knock in Canning Town South, Newham organised by our local MP Lyn Brown (seen in bottom left with our favourite Labour attack dog, Cara, the Yorkshire Terrier)

We were split into pairs by Ward organiser, Alan Griffiths which personally I think is too small a team for a canvass but his argument was it prevented the chatting and gossiping you get in larger teams....As if Labour Party activists ever gossiped!

I was paired with Canning Town South Councillor, Bryan Collier MBE. Who is I think universally recognised as a hard working, dedicated and competent Councillor and  community activist. Bryan was for many years an Environmental Health Officer and UNISON member in one of my favourite branches, Lambeth local government.

We went to a relatively new block in Butchers Road, Canning Town managed by L&Q Housing Association.

The first home we visited were enthusiastic Labour supporters and pleased with free school meals for their children and that their son was learning to play the violin at school under the "every child a musician" programme. Their young son who was present didn't seem to share their enthusiasm quite so much but wouldn't it be brilliant if Canning Town was known in the future as the home of a violin maestro!

We had some fun and games trying to get into the block. There was no "drop key" panel which made me wonder how the emergency services can gain immediate access to the block? There was probably the most sophisticated door entry system I ever come across. When you rang a door number, if it was not answered it was transferred to the occupants’ mobile phone number. We were eventually let in by a resident who was not even at home (or so he told us I suppose).

The block was in a good condition (well done to caretakers, maintenance and management staff).  There were complaints by residents about anti-social behaviour by some local children in the car park and people leaving rubbish bags outside the communal bin areas. Bryan has already held one meeting with L&Q, local sector Police and residents about this problem and will see about holding another.

The very positive response to Labour that we received did surprise me a little since many residents were not originally from Newham. Bryan was recognised by some as a good local Councillor but without being at all flippant or complaisant in the slightest, we had some very good and interesting canvass returns.

Saying Goodbye to UNISON United Left

This is probably how it happened but will anyone notice? Or care? Or know what on earth I am going on about?


Its not an Equitable Life Henry if your pension has been robbed

On Friday I received a cheque for £46.13 from the UK government in compensation for its failure to regulate the Equitable Life.  It was estimated that I had a "relative loss" of £205.94 (including interest) out of a holding that should have been worth £1250.30 (see scan left). It was pro rata down to £46.13.

Equitable Life ran my Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVC) top up pension saving fund at Tower Hamlets Council. In 2000 the Equitable Life effectively became bankrupt due to an adverse House of Lords court judgement.

The 200 year old mutually owned Equitable Life had promised to pay savers a rate of return which due to changing market conditions was completely unaffordable.

The basis of the claim against the Government financial regulators (and others) at the time was that they had failed to regulate it properly and if they had then it wouldn't have failed.

I had only recently started saving with Equitable life and had 50% invested in a unit trust fund which was not directly affected. However, Equitable life was seen at the time as a leading pension and investment company and many people lost a massive chunk of their life savings.

The reasons for the collapse are complex and still under dispute but rubbish governance as well as poor regulation was at the heart of it. Equitable Life was the oldest mutual insurer but behaved almost as badly and as recklessly with policy holders money as any of the big privately owned banks did before 2007.

This is a lesson to all of us who believe in mutual ownership.   30,000 policy holders died before they could receive any compensation and probably less than 10% of losses are going to be compensated.

Check out Equitable Life Members Support Group

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rokeby Centre...The Big International Lunch..Sunday 27th Oct 1-4pm

This looks like it will a great event. Rokeby Centre is one of the West Ham Community centres where I hold my Saturday Council surgeries.

Tories condemning London low paid to life long poverty and benefit dependency

Do the Tories really know what they are doing with their so called "affordable rent" housing policy? Do they realise they are going to force many London workers to life long poverty and dependency on state benefits?

Even in Newham which traditionally is one of the most inexpensive boroughs in London to rent or buy.

The policy which is being enforced by Tory Mayor, Boris Johnson across London requires nearly all new social housing and re lets of many existing homes to be at an average 80% of market rents.

This is to make up for the slash and burning of capital grant aid by this Government to subsidise the building of new homes.

Leaving aside for the moment the short term idiocy of not building new homes when we have a massive housing shortage and need to increase economic demand in the economy. 

An one bedroom Council home in Stratford, let at a so-called "affordable rent" (80% of market) is still a staggering £191 per week. Council tax for Band B property is £19 per week (£974 a year). So total housing costs of £210 per week (figures Newham Council).

If a worker earns a London living wage (£342 gross per week) how would they live and pay the rent? After tax and national insurance they will be left with £287 per week. After housing costs of £210 per week they will be left with £77 per week - before you take into account travelling costs, fuel, clothing and food etc. The Taxpayer will have to step in to give housing benefits and/or tax credits especially if they have children.

Of course many workers in Newham don't even get a living wage and try to survive on the minimum wage of £248 per week. (£223 after tax and national insurance).

If they had a traditional social rent (around say 45-55% of a market rent) at £85.56 per week then they would at least have the chance to pull themselves out of poverty.

So instead of the government funding the building of homes at social rent and allowing low paid workers to escape benefit dependency as the Tories claim they want they are forcing low paid workers and their families into lifelong benefit dependence.

95p in every £1 spent on housing by this government is spent on housing benefit and only 5p on new homes. What a waste.

For better paid workers who cannot afford to buy then 80% of market rate is of course better than 100% but unless there is a subsidy to enable rents for the low paid to be at a social level then you are just condemning the vast majority of low paid workers to a life on benefit dependency.

(picture used in recent BBC "Beds in Sheds" programme. The new Tory "Barracks for the Poor"?)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Norman Geras: 1943-2013

The blogging world is a lesser place tonight. Prolific political blogger, Norman Geras, Manchester University Politics Professor has died.

I once heard him speak at a Euston Manifesto conference during which he described the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) as not socialists because they don't believe in democracy, not workers since they are middle class and not a party but a cult.  I never spoke to him, but I have long admired his numerous clever and insightful posts on "Normblog".

He has been described since his death as "Marxist Blairite" which is pretty weird but probably on balance true.  But his intelligent, questioning nature, fundamental decency and hatred of oppression shone through. I did not agree with everything he said but there is no denying his intellect and the power of his arguments.

"I am very sad to announce that Norm died in Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge in the early hours of this morning. Writing this blog, and communicating with all his readers, has brought him an enormous amount of pleasure in the last ten years. I know that since writing here about his illness earlier in the year he received a lot of support from many of you, and that has meant a great deal to him, and to us, his family. The blog and all its archives will remain online.

Jenny Geras (Norm's daughter), 18 October 2013

Update: Check out normfest

Thursday, October 17, 2013

For 39 of 40 months under David Cameron, prices have risen faster than wages.

"Share the news: for 39 of 40 months under David Cameron, prices have risen faster than wages. It’s official, David Cameron is the worst Prime Minister on record for living standards and, worst of all, he seems to be in total denial about this cost of living crisis".

Hat tip Labour Party

I believe that I am right in saying that at the same time Executive Pay has increased (12% 2012), City bonuses has increased (£1.3 Billion April 2013 from £600 million April 2012); Taxes for those earning over £150,000 per year have been reduced from 50% to 45% while Company profits increase.   

Yes, Mr Cameron, we are indeed "all in this together".

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Real Art John?

Hat tip top former UNISON Trouble maker in Chief, Professor Paul McCabe, Bermondsey and Bow University of Life.

Monday, October 14, 2013

West Ham Labour in Church Street "on the knocker".

On Saturday we had a door knock surgery in Church Street, West Ham, E15. 

This is probably the oldest part of the ward. West Ham Parish Church of all Saints is over 1,000 years old. King Henry VIII is reputed to have met Anne Boleyn at the church, Charles Dickens apparently used to set his watch by the time on the church clock and I wonder if founder of the trade union GMB, local Labour Councillor and MP Will Thorne use to attend this church? He was probably I think a non-conformist.

All the properties we visited were either Newham Council social housing tenancies or bought under "right to buy". It was interesting that none of the properties we visited (bar one which was a leasehold) had tenants from Eastern Europe, which suggests it is a lie that people come over to this country and get "Council housing". 

The great thing about door knocking is that you never know what you are going to come across next. Early on I met one resident who is a NHS worker and I hopefully managed to persuade her to rejoin Unison.  

Another was very annoyed about a local parking problem which had taken ages to resolve. When I asked him whether he supported Labour, he looked at me in surprise and said of course he voted Labour!

A heavily pregnant Mum with Partner and 4 kids (one disabled) and another one obviously on the way, all housed in a 2 bed flat, asked for help. She knew that there was a chronic housing shortage and massive housing list in Newham. It turned out that she was having problems accessing the internet bidding system. She just needed some assistance to get on-line. 

There were serious complaints of anti-social behaviour about teenagers sitting on block communal stairs smoking, drinking and frightening residents walking past. This is completely unacceptable and action is needed to try and stop this.  All tenants and leaseholders are directly responsible for the behaviour of their children and their visitors. If they fail to control the behaviour of their children then they need to be held to account for this.

It was also clear that some business premises rented out by the Council were leaving their yards and flat roof areas in a mess. This needs to be cleared up. It will be in their leases to keep these areas clean and tidy.

There were also problems with communal lighting, insecure security doors and fire risks from inappropriate use of storage areas which I will be also taking up with Council commercial premises managers.

When I got home I uploaded the returns on line onto the Labour Party Contact Creator (as well as some other contact sheets that I should have inputted earlier but had been too disorganised).  The sheer scale of overwhelming support for Labour in West Ham ward is stunning but it is also very humbling and not to be taken for granted.

There is a genuine debate in this country about whether "class politics" and "labour  identity" is important or not anymore. I can say with a degree of certainly that yes it is in West Ham ward and in Newham generally. Even in the more expensive owner occupied areas in the ward we still get excellent canvass returns. Why this is I genuinely do not really know. I would like to know - in order to spread the magic for May next year and 2015.

(there was also for no obvious reason a lot of very friendly domestic cats about on Saturday - so I have included them in picture college)

Senghenydd Pit Disaster

Least we forget why the Labour Party was formed. Today 14 October 2013 is the 100th anniversary of the Senghenydd Pit disaster.Which killed 439 coal miners and was the worse mining accident in UK history.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

West Ham Trade Unions for Labour

Picture is from last weeks relaunch of West Ham CLP Trade unions for Labour. This meeting was organised by West Ham TULO officer (and UNISON NEC member) Kim Silver.

Kim chaired the meeting and apologised for the lack of notice but emphasised that this was a planning meeting on how we can organise as trade unionists and build links between the Party and the Unions. All Party members who live or work in West Ham can participate (you do not have to belong to a union that is affiliated to the Party). We had 2 union members from East Ham present and apologies from others. Hopefully we can meet up as a Newham TULO in the future.

We discussed a number of possible trade union campaigns that we could support and work towards :-
Opposing the Royal Mail privatisation; Living wage; Employment rights; Blacklisting;  zero hour contracts; Collins Report, unpaid internship, saving the NHS, Welfare reform and housing.

I suggested that we should consider modelling ourselves on the socialist societies such as Fabians and Co-op. To not only campaign and build links with the Party but also have guest speakers, debates and even social events.

It was agreed that our first campaign should be to support the CWU and their likely strike action over the privatisation of Royal Mail. The CWU is currently balloting members which will end on 16 October 2013. If the strike goes ahead we can run stalls, hand leaflets and take petitions in Stratford High Street and  give practical help and assistance to local picket lines etc.

We also agreed to campaign for a Fair wage (Living wage, sickness benefits and pensions) for all workers in Newham - private and public sector.  To start this we will ask West Ham CLP to take forward its existing policy for Newham Council to be an accredited Living Wage employer by contacting the Labour Group and Campaign Forum about implementation.We will also ask for information regarding Zero hour contracts in Newham Council.

The meeting ended on a really positive and constructive note. While we are not in anyway part of the formal regional or national TULO structure nor a substitute for a trade council, I think that by organising in this way, we will help reconnect the unions with Labour at a local level.

The date of next meeting Tuesday 19 November.

London UNISON Health Training Conference 2013

Guest post by Comrade Eitingon on the 10th London Health training event which took place on Friday October 4th at Congress House. I missed it this year due to other union commitments.

"The attendance was about 230+ UNISON activists work with in health in London, which was I believe as good as last year.

We had a had a wide range of speakers on subjects such as NHS transition; Kick it Out! - Tackling racism in Football; WARMS; ACAS - another turbulent year in industrial relations and keynote speaker our General Secretary, Dave Prentis.

Lewisham hospital nurse and London UNISON Service Group Executive member Mike Davey spoke on the 'Be Safe' campaign.  Other speakers included Regional Secretary Linda Perks and Health Regional Manager Chris Remington.

The photo is of Chris Remington presenting the first 'Louis Ellis memorial award' to Rudi Spencer from the Royal Free Hospital for his recruitment efforts.

Louis Ellis is the guy in the photo on the front of the podium. Louis died over the summer, he was a character and was hugely respected within the hospital. His funeral was to cost £8000, over a three week period £6500 was raised by collections amongst the hospital staff, the branch clearing the rest.

His line manager told the region that he was so well known and popular as a Union rep that the hospital would have closed if everyone who wanted to had attended his funeral, hence there will be a separate memorial meeting.

It was good to be highlighting a real unsung union hero". 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ordinary women

"Most shocking of all are the accounts of the women who killed. One of Lower's subjects, a secretary-turned-SS-mistress, had the "nasty habit", as one eyewitness put it, of killing Jewish children in the ghetto, whom she would lure with the promise of sweets before shooting them in the mouth with a pistol. Lower presents another chilling example: that of an SS officer's wife in occupied Poland who discovered a group of six Jewish children who had escaped from a death-camp transport. A mother, she took them home, fed and cared for them, then led them out into the forest and shot each one in the back of the head".

Am I the only one to feel physically sick at this account? Not that the SS men did not shame themselves equally.

Royal Mail Sell Off: Rip Off

Quote from the Father of Modern Economics, Adam Smith "A monopoly granted either to an individual or to a trading company has the same effect as a secret in trade or manufactures. The monopolists, by keeping the market constantly understocked, by never fully supplying the effectual demand, sell their commodities much above the natural price, and raise their emoluments, whether they consist in wages or profit, greatly above their natural rate."

GIIN Investor Forum 2013 and "Impact Investing"

I must admit that when I was invited (by Paul Blyth from Finethic microfinance fund) to attend this "Global Impact Investing Network" (GIIN) forum I was expecting to see a few NGOs, Charitable trusts and the financial worlds "great and the good" making a pitch for funds to invest in various third world "causes".

I had vaguely heard of "micro finance" and "impact investing" but didn't honestly think that it had much to do with me as a UK Pension trustee.

I missed the beginning of the forum and turned up at the Guildhall in the City of London on Thursday evening and sat in on a presentation followed by Q&A on "Scaling Impact Enterprises Through Innovative Platforms" by amongst others, the Rockefeller Foundation. This made my head hurt but made me realise that the presenters were deadly serious about making a real business case about genuine investment opportunities here and abroad, which not only offer potential good financial returns and also a social "good".

I had to miss yesterday mornings session but went to this afternoon's  debate on "Building Impact Investments into Institutional Portfolios" where 3 large financial institutions (Amercian, German and Dutch) explained why they were interested in and/or currently investing in impact funds and the pros and cons.

I put a question to the panel about the lack of knowledge about impact investing amongst pension fund trustees being due to the lack of interest by our investment advisers not only in impact investment but also in wider ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues. I think there was little disagreement in the hall with my views apart from some comments "depends who your advisers are". Well, in 20 odd years (sometimes very odd) I have been a trustee I have never known any investment adviser to voluntarily put ESG as a trustee agenda item. 

The final session was by Sir Ronald Cohen, who is chair of the G8 (or 10) Social Impact Investment Task force (picture). Ronald believes that it is possible for investors to make returns from Impact investment similar to those he made as a long term technology/IT venture trust manager in the 1970's and 1980's. It is "profit with a purpose".  He is described in Wikipedia as the "father" of venture capitalism and social investment.

Which from someone with Sir Ronalds track record is an exciting prospect for any long term investor but I still have some reservations about "impact investment". Firstly, is investing in private or voluntary organisations to provide public services such as probation a "good" or is it just about exploiting the public purse to maximise profit? 

Is impact investment really a side issue or even a fig leaf? What would really change many poor countries would be if the terms of trade were more favourable and fairer prices paid for their mineral resources and produce? 

The very high returns quoted by some impact investment funds are a likely financial "bubble" - what seems too good to be true, often is.  The lack of a credible track record for many of these funds and the investments they make is a real practical problem.

You get poverty and depravation in parts of the UK not only due to a lack of local capital investment opportunities but because our economic and politcal system is fundamentally unequal. How does impact investment address an unfair taxation system which arguably benefits the rich and penalises the poor?

On balance I think impact investment has the potential to be a force for good in our society and I want to know more about it. It is an example of responsible capitalism that progressives should support. There are more risks and higher charges involved but a small percentage of pension funds could be impact invested in exactly the same way that it is acceptable to invest in the traditional small companies and venture capital sector. 

I was told at the Forum that even in free market America, the banks are forced by law to have branches and make loans even in the very poorest areas - and they still make money for their investors from this.