Monday, December 22, 2014

Safety inspections are not optional – Governments should respect international law and protect workers (so should employers)

Hat tip TUC Risks. We need to stop our Government (and employers) ignoring international law and make them take responsibility for the safety of their workers.  UK Employees who work for anti-trade union employers such as Ealing based Catalyst Housing Association are in an even worse place, since if you work for an employer who refuses to recognise a trade union you don't have State or Safety rep workplace protection either.

"The UK government is breaking international rules requiring safety inspections of all workplaces, an International Labour Organisation (ILO) ruling indicates. In November, ILO issued is findings on a complaint by Dutch unions about their government’s failure to comply with a number of ILO conventions.

The unions believed cutbacks and reorganisation meant an effective inspectorate and related medical service no longer existed. Like the Netherlands, the UK has ratified and is required to abide by the ILO’s Labour Inspections convention. This states: “Workplaces shall be inspected as often and as thoroughly as is necessary to ensure the effective application of the relevant legal provisions”.

Other parts of the convention lay down requirements for inspectors’ independence, training, access to advice, and provision of local offices. The ILO ruled the Dutch government was breaching the convention’s requirements because of its failings on the number and frequency of inspections, the support provided for inspectors and the system for notification of occupational diseases. The ILO also stressed the importance of unannounced inspections, noting the provisions applied to “all workplaces, particularly in enterprises that are not considered to be in high-risk sectors and in small enterprises.”

According to TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson, the majority of UK workplaces are exempt from unannounced inspections and the Health and Safety Executive’s medical service has been decimated. He concluded “many of the arguments used by the Dutch trade unionists apply equally or even more so in the UK, where the Coalition government has slashed inspections, while at the same time reducing the number of HSE offices and level of support available. The Dutch government has been told to put their house in order. We will be asking the UK government to do the same.”

TUC Stronger Unions blog.

ILO Governing Body report, 6 November 2014.

ILO Labour Inspections Convention, No.81.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Christmas Carol by the High Court

Any solicitor’s office in the country (except the Strand).
So, Ms Peasant you have been sacked because you are pregnant and you have come in for a free interview.  Typical of your sort if I may say so.
It’s so unfair.  I want to bring a claim.  You do no win no fee don’t you?
WE do. The State doesn’t.  Tribunal fees are £1,200.00 win or lose.
I haven’t got that sort of money!  I am unemployed.  I’ve been sacked.
Come, come now.  I am an employment lawyer.  I know the minimum wage is £6.50 an hour.  Easy to remember; it is one hundredth of what I charge – 200 hours work and you have the fee, unless we need to appeal.  Cut out the foreign holidays. Sack the nanny – she won’t be able to afford the fee to sue you.  My little joke!
My Mum looks after the children.  We only just got by when I was working.
There I can help you.  You need to prioritise your spending.  The High Court has said so.  Eat your existing children – Swift said that and he was a clever man, but you peasants don’t read you just watch Sky.
We don’t have Sky.  Murdoch is nearly as right wing as the High Court.
Go down the library and read Swift.
They’ve closed the library.
Have an abortion.  Save you money and I might be able to get your job back.
I don’t want an abortion.  Anyway they’ve closed the clinic.
Find a rich man.
I am married.  My husband was sacked for complaining about my treatment at work.
Oh then he has a claim as well then.  Another £1,200.00 mind.
I’ve had enough!
I advise on the law; I don’t make it.  I want to read to you what the High Court said:
“The question many potential claimants have to ask themselves is how to prioritise their spending; what priority should they give to paying fees in a possible legal claim as against many competing and pressing demands on their finances?”
It goes on a bit but basically do you want to bring a claim or eat and feed and clothe your children?
But no-one should have to make that choice in Britain in 2014.
That’s where you are wrong.  The court said:
“The question is not whether it is difficult for someone to be able to pay – there must be many claimants in that position – it is whether it is virtually impossible and excessively difficult for them to do so”.
That’s wicked.
That’s the High Court. Lord Justice Elias is paid £198,674.00 and Mr Justice Foskett £174,481.00 so they know all about having to count the pennies.
Surely Labour will change all this.
I think I will vote for the Fascists then.
They tried that in Germany. Didn’t do them much good. Nice rallies mind.
Client leaves.  Solicitor hums the Horst Wessel.  There is a muffled explosion.  The local court is in ruins.

Hat tip Daniel Barnett and Kerry Underwood

(My lesson number one - if you are in work and want justice at work, join a Union

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Worried about paying your winter fuel bill? UNISON is "there for you"

I am very proud of  "There for you" (UNISON welfare) and the work it does for our members who are in financial hardship but we should never forget that often this hardship is caused by low pay, insecure employment and our rip off financial services.

"There for you" will allow our low paid members to apply for a one off fuel grant of £40.  To those of you on a decent wage, £40 may not seem a lot, but if you are on a poverty wage, it may make the difference for being cold or warm on winter nights for you and your kids.

It is shameful that we have such a ultra right wing economic system that relies on welfare to provide for the basic needs of those in work who provide public services.

Roll on May 7 2015. The only alternative to a Labour Government is another 5 years of Tories. The choice is clear.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Cllr Peter Brayshaw

I was saddened to hear yesterday of the sudden death of Camden Councillor, Peter Brayshaw. Peter was Chair of Camden Pension Fund and a keen member of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF). I had spoken to him only a few  weeks ago at this years LAPFF Conference.

Peter was softly spoken, polite, intelligent, principled with great political values. 

The picture is from last year's LAPFF conference when Peter made a marvelous tribute regarding the life and times of Nelson Mandela and the role that UK Councils had played in bringing about the end of Apartheid. Peter had been a lifelong supporter of the liberation of Southern Africa and was currently vice chair of ACTSA.

In fact as a young student he spent 3 weeks in Brixton prison on remand for protesting against the white supremacist government in Rhodesia.

Check out tributes in local newspaper, Anti Apartheid and ACTSA.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Amazon-Free Challenge - Better Places to Shop

The Amazon-Free Challenge kicks off today, and over 12,000 have now signed up to ditch Amazon this Christmas! [1] It's not too late to join in too - you can add your name here. If you’re used to shopping at Amazon, we recognise it might be tough at first. Even if you’re an Amazon-Free veteran, it’s also hard to find the time to discover better options.

But it’s going to be ok! We’ve put together a quick guide for other places you could get your prezzies this Christmas:

Check out and share the 'Better than Amazon' Shopping guide here

With our friends at Ethical Consumer we’ve done some research and ranked retailers according to how they treat their workers, and whether they are likely to be dodging tax.

This is by no means an exhaustive list - but hopefully it’s enough to get your started, and give a flavour of what’s out there :). We’ve done our best to provide a mix of super ethical options and some big names that might be regarded as better than Amazon. In some cases, your best bet could be to use your local independent shops, or go for second hand options.

Today is ‘Cyber Monday’ - supposedly the biggest online shopping day of the year. Let’s use it instead to build a movement away from Amazon and companies who don’t play fair. Please check out the guide, and let us know if you have any other Amazon-Free favourites by commenting at the bottom of the page, or dropping us an email:

Get your Amazon-Free Shopping guide here


Amazon Anonymous x

[1] From the Guardian today: Amazon Christmas boycott campaign gathers weight

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cake - The banker, the tabloid reader & an immigrant

This is so, so true. There are a number of versions of this anecdote and this is one of best I have seen.

Hat tip Cleveland Watkiss via Facebook "The System In A Nut-shell.#2014".

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tom Petty - I Won't Back Down

Today I was driving solo back to London from a difficult but I think constructive hearing in Cambridge and I heard this record for the first time in years on "Absolute Radio 1980s". Turn volume up to maximum and sing-a-long time. This is a fantastic song for all trade unionists.  Check out this soulful and very different Johnny Cash YouTube video rendition.


The motion below on Union Busting has been sent to by UNISON Housing Association branch to next year's Greater London Regional Council AGM in February 2014. If it is passed it will also be considered as a regional motion for the National Delegate Conference (NDC) in June.

A similar motion will be debated at the National UNISON Community AGM in March 2015.

Labour Party branches will also be asked to consider a motion for the Party Conference and to make a submission to the next National Policy forum.

Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidates and Shadow Cabinet members will be sent this motion and background details asking for support.

I hope in particular that the Board of Catalyst Housing Associations are made fully aware of the legal, human rights, reputational and other risks of allowing Union Busting to take place. 


This Regional Council notes:-

That a number of Housing associations, Charities and private employers who provide public services are openly hostile to trade unions, carry out American style anti union practices and refuse to recognise trade unions.

The right of free assembly and collective bargaining is a fundamental human right enshrined in international law. Any failure by any employer to honour these rights with regard to trade unions means they do not respect human rights.

We note that “not for profit” or “third sector” employers are normally registered charities and should share a social ethos with regard to good governance and respecting human rights.

Public Service Providers who do not treat their staff with respect or dignity will not treat their clients or residents with respect either.

Replacing free and democratic trade unions with internal “staff associations” is historically a central plank of the philosophy called “Corporatism” which has direct links with far right political groups in the UK and abroad.

All public service employers are dependent on public procurement and funding, direct or indirect.  While at the same time many pay their senior managers huge amounts of money.

Many supporters of national charities would be horrified to find out that these charities refuse to recognise or engage with independent trade unions.

There is a huge reputational and financial risk to employers who engage in such anti-trade union busting.

This Regional council calls on Regional Council Officers to:-

Actively support and help campaign against union busting by Public Service providers.

Draw up a campaign plan on how to organise in Public Service Providers that we do not currently have trade union recognition.

Call upon National Labour Link to examine whether local Councils and a future Labour Government should debar any Public Service Provider that does not recognise trade unions from access to public funding or procurement.

Call upon the Government to hold an independent public enquiry into the governance and democratic deficit of employers who provide public services.

(This motion to be considered for NDC and if successful the wording to be changed according)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Class Action and stopping the endless drip, drip of corporate fraud

A very good article by lawyer Katherine Dandy  on Class Actions in Pension Insight. I have added this comment to the on-line site.

"You make a lot of sense Katherine. There is also a wider governance point that trustees should consider.

It is not only a duty for them to recover such losses if possible but also as owners we have a responsibly to "punish" directors and companies who undertake fraud or such negligent behaviour in order to improve overall corporate governance standards.

Most class action claims are also settled by insurers so it should not necessarily damage a company you still have shares in.  More class actions will also increase pressure on insurance companies to insist on better governance standards to reduce their risk.

Directors who behave in such ways should be held personally liable. Next to more effective criminal regulatory powers this is the best way to stop the seemingly never ending drip, drip of corporate fraud and negligence cases.

(it seems that Pension Insight  haven't published my comment? So I have just tried again).

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Newsletters and Christmas Cards for Ilford North

This afternoon West Hammers went to Ilford North to help deliver a Labour newsletter and Christmas cards from local candidate Wes Streeting. 

In the newsletter there is a picture of Wes from 2010 when he was President of the National Union of Students with the current Tory MP for Ilford North, Lee Scott. It showed Lee has pledged to vote against any increase in tuition fees for students in the next Parliament.

Yet when he was re-elected Lee refused to vote against it and just didn't turn up for the debate. As a result students are now paying £9,000 per year.

By coincidence Wes is now standing against Lee Scott. Wes says "If MPs like Lee Scott kept their promises, students wouldn't be saddled with record levels of debt. This is one of the reasons why people don't trust politicians anymore"

The weather was dry, sunny but cold. We were kept warm walking up and delivering to both sides of  Tomswood Hill and side streets.

West Ham CLP has been twinned with Ilford North for the General Election. UNISON London Labour Link has also been tasked with helping the local party.

To get rid of Cameron and form a Labour government we have to win our marginal seats.