Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ronald Valentine Higgins RIP - Socialist, Footballer, Trade Unionist & War Hero

I was sad to hear yesterday of the death of 92 year old Labour Party loyalist, Ronald Valentine Higgins (his middle name is due to being born on 14 February!).

Ronald had a long and fascinating life as a East End Steelworker, semi-professional football player, war time Lancaster Bomber Gunner, Docker, trade unionist and life long Labour supporter.

I remember meeting him at a Labour Party BBQ on Wanstead flats many years ago and being so impressed by this quiet, friendly, unassuming man, who had done so much in his life for his country and working people.

See the tribute here from the Newham Recorder.

Picture is of Ron supporting a Labour Party stall in Green Street last year and making clear what he believes in. 

RIP Ron and condolences to your family.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Newham United Against Austerity Launch with John McDonnell MP

Picture collage from the successful recent launch of "Newham United Against Austerity" (NUAA) with key note speaker, John McDonnell MP, Labour Shadow Chancellor, who was introduced by West Ham Labour MP Lyn Brown.

Other speakers were Kevin Courtney, the Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Custom House Councillor, Rokhsana Fiaz and Yvonne Green, the Greater London Convenor for the public service union Unison. 

More than 100 people turned up to the launch of a joint trade union and community based campaign against the Government's attempt to starve Newham’s public services of funds and impose austerity upon us. I will post further on John's speech, the other speakers and the ongoing NUAA campaign.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Ideal London Pub "The Moon Under Water"

Off message but there was a marvellous report this morning on the Radio 4 "Today" programme about 9 February being the anniversary of the article "The Moon Under Water" written by George Orwell in 1946 on his "Ideal Pub".

They got different members of the public to read out the article on what makes the perfect London Pub.

A certain pub chain (owned ironically by a hard right political nutcase) has taken up the theme and a number his pubs use the same fictional name given by this famous left wing and anti fascist writer.

"Orwell stipulated ten key points[3] that his perfect pub in the London area should have (his criteria for country pubs being different, but unspecified):

The architecture and fittings must be uncompromisingly Victorian.

Games, such as darts, are only played in the public bar "so that in the other bars you can walk about without the worry of flying darts".

The pub is quiet enough to talk, with the house possessing neither a radio nor a piano.

The barmaids know the customers by name and take an interest in everyone.

It sells tobacco and cigarettes, aspirins and stamps, and "is obliging about letting you use the telephone".

"[...] there is a snack counter where you can get liver-sausage sandwiches, mussels (a speciality of the house), cheese, pickles and [...] large biscuits with caraway seeds [...]."

"Upstairs, six days a week, you can get a good, solid lunch—for example, a cut off the joint, two vegetables and boiled jam roll—for about three shillings."

"[...] a creamy sort of draught stout [...], and it goes better in a pewter pot."
"They are particular about their drinking vessels at "The Moon Under Water" and never, for example, make the mistake of serving a pint of beer in a handleless glass. Apart from glass and pewter mugs, they have some of those pleasant strawberry-pink china ones. [...] but in my opinion beer tastes better out of china."

"[...] You go through a narrow passage leading out of the saloon, and find yourself in a fairly large garden [...] Many as are the virtues of the Moon Under Water I think that the garden is its best feature, because it allows whole families to go there instead of Mum having to stay at home and mind the baby while Dad goes out alone."

Orwell admitted that "to be fair", he did know of a few pubs that almost came up to his ideal, including one that had eight of the mentioned qualities.

The essay finishes as follows:
And if anyone knows of a pub that has draught stout, open fires, cheap meals, a garden, motherly barmaids and no radio, I should be glad to hear of it, even though its name were something as prosaic as the Red Lion or the Railway Arms.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

When Workers Unite

Great cartoon from USA Union General Electrics Workers union. If you want to know what trade unionism is all about, this says pretty much it all. Unity is strength. United we stand, divided we fall.  

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Labour Local Government Association Conference 2016

Picture taken today at the end of the conference with the 3 J's - James, Jeremy and John. Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn (and a UNISON member) fellow Newham Councillor (and UNISON member), James Beckles.  I had never been to this conference before (nor Nottingham where it was held) and was impressed with both.  I will post a fuller report soon.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Forest Gate North Labour Branch AGM & HeartUnions Campaign

Yesterday I had my 2nd Labour Movement AGM in a row. On Wednesday I went to  the UNISON Greater London Region AGM, where I was re-elected (for the 8th consecutive year) as a Regional Council Officer (the Executive Convener for Finance).

Last night I went to my local Labour Party branch AGM for Forest Gate North.  Where I was elected as Vice Chair of the branch and my good trade union comrade, Anamul Islam, was elected Chair.  The excellent existing Secretary, Heather Jones, was also re-elected unopposed. The former Chair Rachel Tripp who stepped down was thanked for all her hard work in the past.

It was heartening to see so many members turn up to the AGM and want to get involved. We had to move to a bigger room and then bring down even more chairs. It shows that people are definitely interested in politics again.

I made it clear in the mini "hustings" that I wanted change in West Ham and Newham Labour politics and that branches, affiliates and above all members should have a greater voice and role to play in the local Party.  

At the end of the meeting members gathered for the picture above to support the TUC campaign against the Tory Anti trade union bill currently going through the House of Lords - "HeartUnion". 

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Greater London UNISON AGM 2016

Another AGM and another victory for the forces of light and reason in Greater London UNISON yesterday. UNISON delegates voted overwhelmingly in favour of a sensible left slate and reselected the existing Regional Council Officers for another year (including yours truly).

Many thanks to all our supporters.

Congratulations to Yvonne, Conroy, Liz, Lynn and Ashlyn (not in picture). I will post further on the meeting.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

"Disciplinary procedures: six common mistakes made by inexperienced managers"

Hat tip Personnel Today and UNISON Scottish Community sector on Facebook. 

"Employers often spend a large amount of time drafting a fair disciplinary policy, but fail to give the same attention to training their staff to put it into practice. Fiona Cuming sets out six common mistakes made by inexperienced managers.

1. Not following the Acas code of practice

Managers need to be familiar with the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures, as well as their own disciplinary rules and procedures.
Although a failure to follow the code does not in itself make an employer liable to proceedings, employment tribunals will take the code into account when considering relevant cases.

2. Not warning the employee of the possible consequences

The employee must be made fully aware of the likely disciplinary penalties if the allegations are upheld.
Depending on the seriousness of the allegations, the possible penalty might be a formal verbal warning, a written warning, a final written warning or indeed dismissal. In short, the disciplinary decision should not contain any surprises.

3. Including new allegations without investigating

It can be tempting to add any new allegations that surface during a disciplinary investigation to the current ones that are subject to the disciplinary process.
This is not advisable, as any fresh allegations must be fully investigated before a disciplinary hearing takes place.

4. Issuing the penalty without considering all relevant factors

Managers should consider what type of penalty has been imposed in similar cases in the past. They should then bear in mind the particular circumstances. This can include the employee’s disciplinary record, his or her general work record and position within the organisation as well as length of service.
Managers must also take into account any mitigating circumstances. This could cover matters relating to the employee’s health, any domestic problems, or whether or not the behaviour in question arose due to the employee being provoked. If the employee has breached a rule, consideration needs to be given to whether or not the employee was reasonably aware of that rule.

5. Not checking what penalties are allowed under the disciplinary policy

Only in very serious cases will summary dismissal for a first offence be merited. In cases of minor misconduct, a series of warnings before dismissal will be more fitting.
In Thomson v Imperial College NHS Trust, the disciplinary manager dismissed Dr Thomson for gross misconduct even though he did not find the behaviour in question amounted to gross misconduct. He took account of a prior first written warning.

The tribunal found the dismissal was unfair because the trust’s own policy only allowed for summary dismissal for conduct that, of itself, did not amount to gross misconduct, where the employee had received a previous final written warning and not a first one.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld the tribunal’s decision. It found that the “absence of training or experience” of the disciplinary manager was “something that directly affected the fairness of the disciplinary proceedings”.

6. Getting the reason for the dismissal wrong

Employers sometimes struggle to categorise the type of behaviour that has given rise to the allegation. A dismissal will be considered unfair, even if the employee could have been dismissed fairly on the facts, if the stated reason for the dismissal is incorrect.

In Jinadu v Docklands Buses Ltd, Ms Jinadu, a bus driver, was dismissed because she had refused to attend a training centre to assess her driving skills. She appealed and this was adjourned to allow her to attend a driving assessment, which she finally agreed to do. She failed the assessment and was dismissed when the appeal panel reconvened.

Ms Jinadu brought a claim of unfair dismissal in the employment tribunal. She was not successful and she appealed the decision. The EAT sent the case back to the tribunal to determine as a starting point the correct reason for her dismissal".

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Campaigning for Sadiq Khan as Labour Mayor for London in Maryland, E15

Picture from West Ham's campaign session for Sadiq Khan to be London Mayor in Maryland, Stratford, E15 on Saturday.

Our MP, Lyn Brown, was out with activists in the rain and the sunshine encouraging residents to vote for Sadiq in May.

It was great to see new members of the Party out knocking on doors and talking to residents. I had conversations about planning, environment, parking and of course - housing. I had some ear bashing but people seemed, by and large, pleased that we were there so they could let us know their views. We had one lady who was extremely upset that we had knocked on her door and let us know it in no uncertain terms. This happens from time to time but surprisingly rarely.

I had to finish a little early to go and help set up the Newham United Against Austerity (NUAA) launch event with key note speaker, Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP. Post on this to follow.