Saturday, October 25, 2014

Gregg McClymont MP at NAPF Conference 2014

Labour Shadow Pension Minister Gregg McClymont spoke (with a smile) about the previous speaker Bob Geldof being his "warm up act" this year. 

Gregg has now been coming to the NAPF Conference as Shadow minister for the last 4 years.

He has four key points.

1. There has been successful pension changes and measures which have been delivered with consensus.
2. We all need to deliver on pension promises
3. The Government is currently in the wrong place
4. It may have made decisive policy but not with the necessary checks and balances

His thoughts on these points

1. The new universal flat rate state pension and the successful launch of two million people into auto enrolment  was achieved by consensus.
2. The Government under pressure from the Labour Party and the NAPF have introduced a charge cap and the "disclosure" of transaction costs.
3. Where the Government is in a wrong place, is in the governance of pensions schemes. Where there are not independent trustees, workers are unlikely to see value for money in workplace pensions. Pensions of all types including contract schemes should be governed by independent trustees with an obligation to act in their best interests.
4. Soon many workers will be able to take out all their pensions in a lump sum (after paying a possible massive tax) but what will the guidance look like to stop people being ripped off and the likely take up by individuals is just not known.

Labour priorities are for value for money and to get this we also need to promote the scale of pension funds.  Larger pension schemes are more likely to delivery value for money.

In the Q&A I asked Greg would he agree that independent trusteeship of all pension schemes is also about re-establishing trust in the industry after decades of financial scandals.  People would save more if they were more confident that their money was being looked after by genuine beneficiaries trustees who will be acting on their behalf and making sure they are not being ripped off .

Greg thought that greater trusteeship would help establish checks and balances which is especially important since millions of people have been auto enrolled by the state and there is even a greater  responsibility to make sure the money is looked after properly.

Friday, October 24, 2014

UNISON Members vow to fight Union busting at Catalyst Housing Association

"UNISON members at Catalyst Housing Association reacted with shock to the news that the Head of People and Organisational Development received a 28% increase in salary last year whilst they received a mere 1%.

The members were attending a large, boisterous union meeting called to discuss the Chief Executive, Rod Cahill’s, decision to derecognise UNISON.

A letter of de-recognition was issued last week in response to a letter of complaint from UNISON about bullying of stewards and the unfair treatment of union members at Catalyst.

Members expressed their anger and concerns about their employer’s anti-union stance and are prepared to even consider industrial action in their fight to retain trade union recognition at Catalyst.

When a legitimate complaint about serious concerns results in an instant letter of de-recognition, you do wonder about that organisation’s governance and accountability”, commented Regional Organiser, Colin Inniss. “Does this mean that Catalyst tenants who complain automatically face eviction?

All Catalyst workers deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as the organisations’ tenants and stakeholders; this is shabby treatment by an employer that is supposedly striving to go from good to great.”

Housing Association Branch Secretary John Gray said "Catalyst have refused to even meet with us to discuss our complaint or their concerns and have given out false and inaccurate information about membership levels.

They claim to have a strong Information and Consultation Committee that was voted in by 100% of the workforce; in actual fact less staff members voted for it than are in the union.

We have also taken legal advice and it is clear that Catalyst has acted unlawfully under international law and human rights.

UNISON always wants to talk to employers and seek agreement where possible. I call on the Board of Catalyst to meet with UNISON and settle this dispute before it gets ugly.

For Further information or comment please contact:

UNISON Regional Organiser, Colin Inniss

UNISON Housing Associations Branch Secretary , John Gray

Notes for Editors

1. UNISON’s represents over 60,000 members in the Community and Voluntary sector.
2. UNISON has recognition agreements with most of the G15 Housing Associations – London’s 15 largest housing associations.

3. Catalyst Housing Association own and manage over 21,000 properties in London and the South East

4. In 2013/14 Directors of Catalyst received pay increases ranging between 28.7% and 6.8%; frontline staff received a 1% increase in pay.

(hat tip London UNISON Press release)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Happy Diwali

Best wishes to all those celebrating Diwali, which spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair....

(What a fantastic set of values - Hat tip Tower Hamlets Labour Party e-newsletter)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jean Geldart from Hope Not Hate - UKIP is a Far Right Party of Race Hatred

Today was the UNISON Greater London Regional Council meeting. Hope Not Hate Trade union organiser,  Jean Geldart was a guest speaker.

Before she retired from Tower Hamlets Council, Jean was my  Branch Secretary and a senior UNISON NEC member. She is also the daughter of Phil Piratin who was the Communist Party MP for Stepney 1945-1950.

Jean described how appalling and openly corrupt many of the UKIP MEPs and Councillors are. While many of them are good for a laugh, the leaflets UKIP have put out are worse than even the fascist BNP!

They have organisers who use to work for the National Front and see nothing wrong with this.

The recent shambles in the European Parliament has seen them form an alliance in order to gain EU funding of £1 million (from us tax payers) with Polish anti-Semitic racists and Holocaust deniers.

While they are not  a serious threat in most of London at the moment we have to be vigilant. UKIP can be defeated. In May 2014 when there was local election as well as Euro elections, voters tended to vote UKIP for the EU since they did not think it was important and mainstream parties for local council.

All polling indicates that although they do have real support, the majority are positively opposed to them and actively dislike the UKIP.

So what we need to do is get the anti UKIP vote out.

In the May elections in the North West, there was was a massive anti BNP and UKIP campaign which resulted in them getting only 6 Councillors in the whole of the region. Compare this to similar areas in North and Midlands where they got far more.

We need to expose UKIP and look at what they say and their voting record in Europe. Such as their views that women deserve less pay, their wish to privatise the NHS and destroy workers employment rights.

We need to get this message out what UKIP is really about. We also need to get people to register to vote and set an positive agenda for multiculturalism in London. Jean encouraged all UNISON branches to affiliate to Hope not Hate!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Union is Strength!!!

Fantastic advert for joining an union. Collective is best and its usually always "better together". A pity that Catalyst Housing Association is so anti-trade union and its senior managment believes in right wing corporatism.

Monday, October 20, 2014

As Soon As This Pub Closes...

One of the many reasons why we have never had a real Revolution in this Country since 1649 despite the weird and wonderful selling newspapers outside Tesco's.

Hat tip singer Alex Glasgow who also sang one my favourites "When The Boat Comes In". Brilliant.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Council's bullying and sexist culture contributed to Rotherham scandal"

This is I think the most important finding from the enquiry by Profesor Jay into the disgusting and shameful findings her report uncovered.

"A bullying and sexist culture promoted by the former leader of Rotherham council made it difficult for staff to raise concerns about child sexual exploitation, MPs have been told.

Roger Stone resigned as Rotherham’s Labour council leader in the wake of the Jay Report, which brought to light that 1,400 children in Rotherham had been sexually exploited over a 16-year period.
Stone said when he stepped down: “I believe it is only right that I, as leader, take responsibility on behalf of the council for the historic failings that are described so clearly in the report and it is my intention to do so.”

Professor Alexis Jay, the author of the report and former chief inspector of social work in Scotland, has now singled him out for criticism during her evidence to the House of Commons communities and local government committee inquiry yesterday.

She said that “sexist bullying” designed to put down and undermine women was a feature of the council’s “extremely traditional, male-dominated administration” during a number of years.

“The behaviour of senior people is absolutely critical in determining the ethos and the culture of an organisation. Staff will take their cue from that,” she said. “I don’t think this was an appropriate climate in which to be discussing an issue of such social sensitivity as child sexual exploitation.”

Labour MP Simon Danczuk asked Prof Jay about a letter sent to the committee by Martin Kimber, the authority’s chief executive, in which he is said to have written: “There have been challenges largely associated with the dominance of a particular personality within the council, who at times could be very direct.”

Professor Jay said she assumed that Mr Kimber “was referring to the then leader of the council”. Stone led the authority for 11 years until his resignation when Prof Jay released her report in August.
Rotherham’s new council leader, Paul Lakin, told MPs that he agreed with Professor Jay’s comments, acknowledging that a “bullying culture did exist” at a senior level. He referred to his predecessor as “remote”, and said that Labour councillors had no access to the leader’s office because “you couldn’t even get through the door to see his secretary”.

Lakin said Stone initially resisted his request to commission an independent inquiry after reports in The Times revealed the widespread grooming of girls in the town".

Bob Geldof opens NAPF Conference 2014: Make a difference

Last week I went for the first time to the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) Annual conference in Liverpool. 

The opening speaker was someone who was pretty influential in my teenage years for his music and who later became a respected world figure for doing more than anyone else to feed millions of starving people in Africa, Sir Bob Geldof. 

To honest, I was just a little sceptical beforehand about how much an ageing rock star had to offer the British pension fund industry, but I was and I think others present, were pleasantly surprised.

He started by saying that "...after 40 years in rock and roll I end up talking to a bunch of pension geeks!"

He was a little rambling at times, talked about the risk of international war and Putin Russian adventurism, but also gave a convincing argument about how Africa is the home of some of the world's fastest growing economies.  Also that there is a business case for pension funds to invest in Africa, not for charity but as long term investors seeking returns.

Interesting start to an interesting conference, on which I will post more later. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

TUC March 18 October: Britain Needs a Pay Rise #Oct18

Picture collage from today's TUC "Britain Needs A Pay Rise" March in central London. I was in between my branch (UNISON Greater London Housing Associations) and the London Regional banner. The March was I think a fantastic success. UNISON did the TUC proud.  At the rally I also joined up with West Ham Labour Party comrades.

I met with many London and national trade union and Labour colleagues and discussed a number of issues including the Union busting attempt by Catalyst Housing Association to attack their workers' human rights.

The key message of the March was of course that workers are currently facing the biggest squeeze on incomes in recorded history. Wages have fallen in real terms every year since 2010. No wonder they are angry and we have seen a rise in support for far right racist parties such as UKIP.

When we marched past the opulent Ritz Hotel and then the busy Fortnum and Masons in Mayfair, one of the most expensive and wealthy areas in the world,  I thought not only does Britain deserve a pay rise but we evidently can afford it. In fact the risk to social cohesion from mass poverty, unaffordable housing and food banks is such that it is in the long term interests of the wealthy that we get a pay rise. If nothing changes, people will not continue to march peacefully for ever.

More pictures from today on my Facebook page here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Red Brick on Lyons Review

Lyons does 90% of the job

For housing development nerds the Lyons Housing Commission report, published today, is a cracking read. Commissioned by the Labour Party, and launched by Ed Miliband, it is a serious review of all the problems and challenges facing the Party if it is to achieve its ambition in Government of building 200,000 homes a year by 2020....(click here)