We are the guests of Sadiq Khan MP, Labour Candidate for London Mayor, who is our keynote speaker. This is my report to the AGM as the branch secretary.
"2015 was dominated by the dreadful general election result and the return of a Tory Government determined to carry on with Thatcher’s project to smash trade unions and destroy social housing.
Many of our employers have capitulated to government bullying over Right to Buy, pay-to-stay and rent cuts. Our number one aim this year is to prevent our employers making us pay the price of their surrender which they will try to do by attacking our services, jobs, pay, and terms and conditions.
We can expect some organisations to fold due to financial pressures while others rush to merge and consolidate. The only defence that workers can rely on is their trade union and their colleagues.
Employment law is important but it is a safety net and usually a last resort. The best defence at work is a collective defence. If we have more members in the union, more members becoming activists and stewards, we have more power and influence at work.
The more power and influence we have, the better the outcome for us.
Housing Associations members have also had some successes this year with personal injury claims – in July 2015 three of our members received compensation totalling £60,000 following a terrifying violent attack at work. The members were supported by UNISON to return to work and UNISON’s solicitors, Thompson's assisted them in making claims against their employer. While the real strength of trade unions is in collective action, this case shows that the legal services offered by the union can also help members in securing the compensation they deserve if their employers have been negligent or endangered them at work.
It has been yet another busy year for the branch. Our 2015 AGM was held in the London Assembly building with Stella Creasy MP and Murad Qureshi AM as our keynote speakers. We finally finished our own restructure and we are now fully staffed with new IT equipment.
We sent full delegations to our UNISON Community Service Group and National Delegate Conferences. Our motion on pensions was debated at NDC as part of a successful composite and branch executive member, Doreen Davies, spoke in favour.
In March we said goodbye to temporary Outreach Worker Andy Robinson. April 28 was Workers Memorial Day and we organised a wreath laying event with local MP, Lyn Brown, in Newham, East London, at the site where four workers were killed (in 2016 we will organise a similar event).
In September we celebrated branch Case Worker, Nazan Sen’s 20th anniversary in the branch and the branch executive presented her with flowers and wine glasses to mark the occasion.
In October we took part in the demo in Manchester against Austerity and in November the TUC parliamentary lobby against the anti-trade union bill.
In January of 2016, East Thames activist and branch Welfare officer, Mitsy Harmon-Russell was featured in the UNISON eFocus magazine. Mitsy’s message was that being involved with UNISON has built her confidence and made her much more likely to speak up at work when she thinks something needs changing. Mitsy is a shining example of how by becoming an activist you not only help grow the union but the union will also help you grow.
How about you getting more involved with the union? Interested in finding out more? Please ring the branch and ask to have a chat with Joy or Victoria about getting involved.
John Gray Branch Secretary