Friday, February 27, 2015

UNISON National Community Seminar 2015

This afternoon was the start of the Unison National Seminar for Community (Housing Associations & Voluntary Sector) in Bradford.

Beforehand there was a meeting of delegates who work in community sectors. I went to the Housing Associations meeting. It was really useful to discuss common issues and experience with fellow workers from up and down the country.

Mathew Danaher from Unison organising unit talked to us about a exciting new union social media initiative.

The Seminar started off at 2.30pm and the first speaker was Shadow Labour Minister, Dan Jarvis MP.  See Dan in picture sharing a joke with members of my Branch.

Next was workshops on Sleep-ins & holiday pay; encourage & develop new women activists; mentoring & public speaking and TUPE developments.

Final session at 5pm was a speech followed by Q&A from our General Secretary, Dave Prentis. Dave made it clear that the union has to do everything it can to get rid of this Tory Government, which if it gets in again will finally destroy public services in this country and will do everything it can as well to destroy the union.

It the Q&A I made a comment that the choice in May 7 was between a Tory government and a Labour Government. That was the only choice. People may wish that this was different but this is the reality. It's Labour or it's Tories. It is a free country but people on May 7 could either vote for a Labour Government or let the Tories in. It is a simple as that.

Afterwards we all went to regional meetings and next is a trip to one of the famous Bradford Curry houses for a delegation meal.

The seminar starts again in the morning and the Community National Conference starts at 2pm.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

London Regional Council AGM Election Result 2015

Convenor: John Burgess – 61 Yvonne Green – 119 
Deputy Convenor: April Ashley – 60 Conroy Lawrence – 111 
Finance Convenor: John Gray – 117 Hugo Pierre – 57
Publicity Officer: Lynn Bentley – 115 Phoebe Watkins – 60
Equalities Convenor: Liz Baptiste – 124 Angela Boyle – 52

The cry baby goblin and his evil plans are seen off.

Democracy rules.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fidelity uses profits from your pension to fund the Tories and put you out of a job?

Check out Tom P post "Fidelity, the Tory-friendly fund manager" 

Just think about it. The multi millionaire owners of Fidelity uses profits from managing Council pension funds to promote the Tories - who want to sack and/or destroy the pay and conditions of those Council workers - who pay into the pension scheme in the first place.  What on earth is going on?

"As the latest info from the Electoral Commission reveals, Fidelity is still funding the Tories. £25,000 donated in November took their total for 2014 up to £120,000.

They are also still paying Tory MP Sir John Stanley for advice on "business opportunities and risks" at the rate of £1,800 a month (so around £20K a year). As I've noted before his constituency is where Fidelity is based, so will be interesting to see if they continue this relationship with Sir John's successor as he stands down at this election. It's a very safe seat so will return another Tory.

For those new to this story, it's worth noting that Fidelity have also -

Voted in favour of political donations to the Tories by PLCs in which they are a shareholder

Sponsored meetings of the Tory business liaison group the Enterprise Forum

Donated £50,000 to the No campaign in the AV referendum

So, if you don't want to fund the Tories by accident you might want to check out if you have any savings managed by them and see if you can switch. I shifted our family savings away from Fidelity several years ago because of this. I continue to try and make non-Tories, including pension fund trustees, aware of this link between Fidelity and the Tories. It's up to individuals to decide if they are happy with it, or if they think it constitutes any kind of conflict, but they should at least be aware of it.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Living Rent

This motion was passed at my branch AGM which took place in City Hall last week. It will be one of our motions submitted to our UNISON National Conference in June (the other on "Union Busting").

If people think a "Living Wage" makes sense, then what about a "Living Rent"?

The motion was ably moved by Branch Executive member, Peter Daley. The idea for the motion came from a local branch steward who privately rents.

"UNISON National Delegate Conference notes
1.       Soaring UK rent rises will leave almost six million private renters living in poverty by 2040, according to recent research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).
2.       Rents are growing  more than wages, year in and year out and are becoming more and more unaffordable.  This has caused overcrowding, exploitation and ill health.
3.       It has reached the point that working people cannot afford to live in many high rent areas anymore with homelessness also on the increase.
4.       We are becoming economic slaves to a new master class of landlords who will evict tenants who object to rent increases or if they complain about the state of their property.
5.       Huge amounts of taxpayers’ money is wasted on housing benefit and little is invested in building new homes.
6.       That in other countries such as Germany, Sweden, France and even America there is legal controls on rents.
7.       A “living rent” is as much a basic human right as access to the National Health Service: It is a basic human right
8.       That a truly affordable and sustainable “Living rents” cap for social and market rents in different parts of the Country can be calculated as is already done with the Living wage.

This National Delegate Conference calls upon the NEC to ensure
1.       That UNISON should campaign for a future government to begin a mass house building programme of social homes at social rents (around 50% of the market rent).  This will also bring about reductions in rent in the private sector
2.       That there should be compulsory regulation in the private rented sector to give tenants greater protection and security of tenure
3.    That rent controls are reintroduced and rents are capped at a “Living Rent” set by an independent commission.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

No wonder bosses don't want a Labour Government. Pure greed...

We are being taken for mugs. Workers and the share owners of companies (such as pension and insurance policy holders) alike are being ripped off. The father of modern day economics, Adam Smith, (not someone I usually cite and whose book "Wealth of Nations" was alleged to have been always in Margaret Thatchers handbag) warned the owners of companies in 1776 about the danger of Managers ("Agents") taking too much money for themselves at the expense of share owners ("Principles"). 

No wonder we are seeing a backlash by obscenely highly paid Chief Executives against the prospect of a Labour Government.

"Pay for Chief Executives of FTSE 350 companies has increased more than twice as fast as company profits... and around five times as fast as pay for the average UK worker"Hat tip Inequality briefing.

Friday, February 20, 2015

London Loop Walk: Section 2 - Old Bexley to Jubilee Park

Off message but photos are from the 2nd London Loop Walk last Sunday. This was just under 8 miles and much more attractive than the first. The riverside walk along the River Cray was very muddy but it was fun watching daft dogs jumping into the freezing cold water to chase balls or ducks.

I used the guidebook "The London Loop" by David Sharp/Colin Saunders (2012) which is much better than the rather useless directions on the Transport for London website.  London Mayor, Boris Johnson, has withdrawn funding for the walk I believe.

We had lunch at Georgian Country home, Sidcup Place, which is now run as a restaurant by Brewers Faye. Hot burgers and chips, tasty because of the cold but nothing much to write home about. It was interesting to look inside Sidcup Place and imagine what it looked like in the past (bottom right).

The last part of the walk was the best. Scadbury Park and Petts Wood was beautiful and peaceful. Only 13 more walks and about 134 miles to go.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"The Tories have become the political wing of the Hedge Fund Party"

This story in the Guardian is petty shocking. The email below was sent out on Tuesday by Labour General Secretary Iain McNicol.

Of course the real scandal is these Hedge funds managers are only making this money in the first place by ripping off your pension and saving funds.

"Hedge funds are bankrolling the Tories to the tune of £25,244 a day — and have received an enormous tax cut from them. Donate now to help us stop the wealthiest people in Britain from buying our election.

This is really troubling, to date, the Tories have received a barely believable £53 million in donations from hedge funds. In fact, the most recent figures show them bankrolling the Tories with £25,244 *a day* in 2014. That's more than most people in Britain take home in a year.

And the worst part is this — these big money hedge fund donors are exactly the same people David Cameron's government gave a £145 million tax cut to. We can't avoid the disturbing truth: if we can't compete with the funds they're getting from their small circle of wealthy backers, the Tories might be able buy the election in 2015".

Hat tip Mr Meech and picture from NewStatement article "The Zombies of Mayfair".

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

UNISON Greater London Housing Association Branch AGM 2015

Picture collage from last night's Annual General Meeting which took place at the iconic Greater London Assembly Building, City Hall, which is next to Tower Bridge. Long standing member of our branch and London Assembly member, Murad Qureshi, was our host and gave a welcome speech to members. Murad use to work in Regeneration at the same housing office (at a different time) I worked in for many years in East London. He spoke about the importance of trade union rights and his role as a GLA member holding to account the slippery Tory Mayor, Boris Johnson.

I was re-elected unopposed as Branch Secretary for the 5th year. I obviously must have had a very wicked previous life (joke).

Our keynote speaker was Labour Shadow minister, Stella Creasy MP, who gave a passionate speech about the housing crisis we face in this country. The lack of supply, unaffordable rents and mortgages, rip off letting agencies, revenge evictions and insecure tenancies. She called for people to join the Labour fightback against the recession which we should never forget was caused by Bankers.

Martin Groombridge from London Capital Credit Union also spoke about the many, many advantages for UNISON members to join a credit union.

Our top branch regional organiser, Colin Inniss, gave a typically thoughtful speech about the imperative for all union members to vote in the General election and get rid of this nasty and reactionary Tory led coalition government. Tell your family and friends that they should vote and to remember this government has doubled the amount of time it takes before you have any protection at work from unfair dismissal; it charges you up to £1200 if you want justice at work at a tribunal if you have been unfairly treated or sacked; the massive growth of food banks and insecure zero hour contracts.

While our final guest speaker, national UNISON organiser for our sector, Simon Watson (bottom left), gave a wide ranging presentation about the challenges facing our sector on pay, job insecurity, privatisation etc and how UNISON is facing up to these challenges by campaigning and organising members to stand up for their rights at work.

We heard 3 motions on "Protecting Pensions", "Union Busting" and "Living Rents". All 3 motions were passed but it was agreed to send the "Union Busting" and "Living Rents" motions to our National UNISON conference (we can only send 2).

The Branch is (touch wood) in good shape despite being in awful times. We are solvent, ambitious, growing (membership grew by 4.9% last year), politically active, successfully defending members individually and collectively, building new activists and becoming perhaps a model for the rest of the union on how to organise in our sector.

Many thanks to our branch staff Jo, Nazan, Sarah and Andy for all their hard work during the year and our ace UNISON Regional organisers Colin, Joy and Dario.