Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Notting Hill Strikers at Sadiq Khan MP Parliamentary reception.

Last night Tooting MP Sadiq Khan, who is Minister of Transport and an UNISON member held a reception for local trade union members, Labour party supporters and constituents at the Atlee Room in the House of Commons.

There was a really good turn out with over 150 people attending. London UNISON Labour link sponsored the refreshments. Sadiq had invited Deputy Leader Harriet Harman MP, Home Secretary Alan Johnson MP and Youth Minister Dawn Butler MP as guest speakers.

I was there as Vice-Chair of the London UNISON Labour Link committee and had brought with me two UNISON members from Notting Hill Housing Trust who had been on Strike earlier this month. Strike action is unheard of in our traditionally moderate sector yet members voted 93% in favour to protest at their treatment by the CEO who is trying to destroy family friendly policies at Notting Hill and slash basic staff terms and conditions while paying herself obscene amounts of money and perks (such as £11,000 per year car allowance).

Yesterday we learnt from NHHT senior management that its Board have apparently “refused” to even let UNISON speak to them about its concerns and that they support the boycott of requests for mediation with ACAS! If this is true then you have to question why the NHHT Board is apparently so precious that they are not even willing to even listen to their own workforce express concerns that they are being discriminated against and exploited by their senior management.

This is amazing and can only further damage the reputation and image of the wider sector in the eyes of many people.

There was a Q&A after each speech. I managed to ask a question of Harriet and Alan about what is happening in Notting Hill and attacks by its management on equalities. We will be contacting their Parliamentary offices later today with follow up information.

We also discussed the issue with Sadiq (one of the Strikers is also his constituent) who also agreed to contact the organisation once we brief him properly.

The reception itself was very lively and a good cross section of people. There was some rather silly comments made in the Q&A but I enjoyed the “knockabout” soapbox politics. I cannot believe how complacent and petty some people are at the prospect of a Conservative Government. Turkeys clucking for Christmas! The speakers gave some cracking responses. Sadiq was an excellent host and I am sure he recruited many “foot soldieries” (as Harriet put it) to help him win in the forthcoming election.

It was also of course a good opportunity to build on the lobbying work done over the Notting Hill Housing dispute here and here.

The Daily (Hate) Mail Song



What a Great video! Hat tip Stroppyblog.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Custom House Canvass

Good turn out during the weekend by West and East Ham Labour Party members in Custom House.

Lyn Brown MP (top right) was our "star attraction".

Voter ID was pretty good but there was plenty of case work for the MP and local councillors - particularly around property crime.

I also didn't think that none of the local housing association landlords (neither with regard to assured tenancies or shared ownership) will be winning any housing management prizes in the near future.

Labour Friends of Poland Leaflet (page one)

This is interesting. It is page one of a leaflet put out by Labour Friends of Poland.  I'll post the second page another day. 

Double click to bring up detail.

It does make me remember my good friend and comrade Jerzy (George)  Woznicki

UPDATE: BTW - Only ignorant bigots would try and make cheap political points out of this post.


Below is the Polish translation.

Przewodniczący: Mark Lazarowicz MP, Wiceprzewodniczący: Stephen Pound MP, Sekretarz: Wiktor Moszczyński, Skarbnik: Dr Alan Whitehead MP

Drogi wyborco!

To na którą partię będzisz głosował w nadchodzących wyborach samorządowych i parlamentarnych jest bardzo ważne. Dla wyborców, dla których istotna jest pozycja Wielkiej Brytanii w Europie oraz sytuacja ciężkopracujących i przedsiębiorczych imigrantów z Polski

PARTIA PRACY JEST WŁAŚCIWYM WYBOREM
Wiele prawicowych gazet i polityków kreśli portret polskich pracowników mających negatywny wpływ na brytyjską ekonomię – natomiast Partia Pracy akcentuje pozytywny wkład polskich migrantów i przedsiębiorców do gospodarki na wyspach.

Partia Pracy jest jedyną partią, która trwale wspierała wejście Polski do Unii Europejskiej i zagwarantowanie polskim imigrantom minimalnej stawki płacy – przeciwnie niż Partia Konserwatywna.

Zarówno rząd Partii Pracy, jak i związki zawodowe, takie jak UNISON i GMB starają się zapewnić lepsze warunki dla nowoprzybyłych imigrantów i ich rodzin oraz wsparcie dla różnych społeczności.

Na pomoc rządową oraz tę zapewnioną przez związki zawodowe składają się:

• Infolinia na temat stawek płacy i praw pracownków 0800 917 2368 – pod tym numerem możesz uzyskać porady na temat minimalnej stawki płacy, limitu czasu pracy, praw pracowników agencji pracy, nielegalnych organizacji i minimum stawki płacy w rolnictwie – to ważne problemy dla nowoprzybyłych imigrantów z Europy Wschodniej, którzy mogą być podatni na wyzysk www.payandworkrightscampaign.direct.gov.uk

• Broszura informacyjna UNISON dla pracowników z Europy Wschodniej – dostępne w języku angielskim i polskim http://www.unison.org.uk/migrantworkers/newsletter003.asp

• Angielski dla Ciebie 0845 355 0845 – darmowy kurs dla członków UNISON. Unia również pokrywa koszty podróży do szkoły językowej i zwraca pieniądze wydane na opiekę nad dziećmi/podopiecznymi uczestnikom kursu. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Notting Hill Strike on Dave Hill’s London blog

On Friday Guardian blogger Dave Hill posted here on the dispute, Notting Hill CEO Kate Davies, her close links with Conservative run Hammersmith & Fulham Council and her partner Nick Johnson who just happens to be the CEO of Council owned “Hammersmith & Fulham Homes”.

Dave ponders on the infamous social housing Toryfest “round table discussion” on the pamphlet “Principles for Social Housing Reform” that took place with Kate, Nick, Stephen Greenhalgh, John Moss and Boris's deputy for policing Kit Malthouse and Tory shadow housing minister Grant Shapps's chief of staff Tim Collins.  This pamphlet described social housing as “barracks of the poor” and urges market rents for all tenants and the ending of security of tenure. Or in other words - evicting Grannies whose kids have left home. Very Compassionate Conservatism.

As Dave says “Conclusion? Don't leap to sinister ones: just because people meet to discuss some wide blue sky idea doesn't mean they all find them practical or beguiling. That said, a powerful constellation of Tories and sympathisers with Tory housing policy ideas - and, UNISON would say, Tory management attitudes too - has firmly established itself in Hammersmith and Fulham - just in case that wasn't already crystal clear”.

Nuf said.

Don't forget to check out "All Together Worse" for updates on the dispute.

Corporation Street Cat

Off message but yesterday while delivering leaflets with a West Ham Labour colleague I came across this very cheeky white cat in the front bay window of a home in Corporation Street, E15.

I couldn’t resist taking a photo.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Whips draw Hammers for 9 Downing Street Stunner.

On Friday evening West Ham Labour Party activists were invited to a reception at No. 9 Downing Street, SW1. Our Labour MP Lyn Brown is a Government Whip.

I must admit to not being aware beforehand that the Chief Whip had his official residence in Downing Street alongside the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This is an interesting insight to where power lies in government.

As well as beer and sandwiches in Downing Street we also had a tour of Number 10. Which we all really enjoyed especially the Cabinet room. Outside there was the usual scramble for all the best photos outside the door of Number 10 (and Number 11). The Chancellor’s Wife, Margaret Vaughan, while waiting to be let into Number 10 gave us a cheery welcome and apologised that she could not let us all in for a nightcap!

The premier West Hammer present (apart from Lyn!) was Gerry, a retired trade union activist and 50 year Labour Party member on his first visit to Downing Street. Other highlights were seeing my 1980’s contemporary pop hero Feargal Sharkey at the reception (I was far too shy to say hello); taking pictures of various West Hammers in the Chief Whip’s desk while they sung “if I ruled the world” and us all taking home as many bottle as we can carry of the complimentary Nick and Gordon “Newcastle Brown Ale” bottles (see photo).

We thanked Nick and his favourite “daughter” Lyn for the hospitality and looked forward to attending next year’s Government Whip bash.

Fingers and toes.

Lunchtime visit to Greenwich LG UNISON office


Recently I went on a visit to the UNISON office in Greenwich Council Headquarters with Gloria Hanson. Gloria is of course the longstanding elected UNISON Regional Convenor for London while I am part of her Regional Council Officer team as the elected Finance Convenor. Both of us are lay activists and by co-incidence have worked in local government in East London for many years.

The Greenwich Local Government branch was a few weeks ago put into what is called “supervision” by the UNISON National Executive Committee. This followed in part the finding of a UNISON NEC discipline panel that the Greenwich branch secretary (and 3 others in separate London branches) should be suspended from office for two years due to misconduct. These charges had been investigated beforehand by lay UNISON NEC members who had recommended that there was a case to answer. After the exhaustive disciplinary hearing elected lay NEC members decided that the case was proven and that the members should be suspended from holding any UNISON office for 3-4 years. There was an appeal which was heard by elected UNISON lay members from Service Group Executives who upheld the decision but reduced the suspension from 3- to 2 years.

The former Greenwich branch secretary had taken part in an Employment tribunal case against UNISON with the others and claimed that the union had discriminated against him over this matter due only to his “Marxist/Trotskyite beliefs”. After two separate exhaustive hearings and thousands of pages of evidence and witnesses the tribunal unanimously found against the Greenwich branch secretary and the 3 others. The tribunal completely dismissed all their allegations against the union. Not only that but the tribunal found that the applicants politics beliefs to be fundamentally (section 130) “undemocratic” and to hold authoritarian views which were (section 131) “incompatible with human dignity”. They also held (section 133) “extreme or repugnant views” and (section 135) these views were “not worthy of respect” in any democratic society.

At the Greenwich office Gloria and I were briefed by local UNISON area and regional officers who are supporting the branch during its supervision. There has been some weird and wonderful misinformation put about this supervision. Therefore we carefully checked all the desks in the UNSION office but could not find any Greenwich HR directors hiding underneath listening to all conversations. All the PC's and their hard discs seemed in place. Dawn in Greenwich took place this week at 6.04am (GMT) not 7.50am or 1.30pm

I also had the opportunity to speak to members about the supervision and any concerns they may have. To be quite frank none of the members I spoke to were even aware that the branch was in supervision and were just concerned about the employment issues they were facing and making sure they got good advice and representation. Other members I met were really pleased to meet their elected regional Council officers and asked why hadn’t Gloria and I hadn’t been and visited them before?

I told them that in the past any invite to us must have been eaten by the dog.

Strangely enough neither of us have a dog?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What has the Labour Government ever done for us?

"...papers cover in detail analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies on the distributional impact of thirteen years of Labour rule. The picture is stunning and represents a clear progressive redistribution from rich to poor with those earning over £100,000 paying the most".

Great graphic and very important research.    Labour supporters ought to spread the  word.

Hat tip thingy Left foot Forward and inspiration for post title from my new best friend ever Andy Newman at Socialist Unity.

Friday, March 26, 2010

UNISON Service Group elections 2010

In the real democratic Labour Movement family (not you-know-who's) it seems sometimes that at this time of year we have to spend all our time organising to fight elections and there is not enough time to do practically anything else!

The Union and Labour Party AGM season may be finally finishing but in UNISON we still have the General Secretary election and the Service Group Elections coming up.

Never mind the local Council elections and the all important national election campaigns.

Anyway, I am also standing in to be the London member for the new “Community and Voluntary” UNISON Service Group Executive (SGE).

Ballot papers due out on 12 April.

Details of all the other SGE UNISON candidates who (IMO) are supporters of "light and reason" to follow.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Labour Friends of Mauritius

A bit late but on 9th March there was a meeting of this group in Northumberland Avenue, Central London which was sponsored by UNISON Labour Link. I could not attend since we had the Housing Association Labour Link event at the same time in Parliament.

Pictures were taken by London UNISON branch secretary and Chair of the London Europe and International committee Ray Mouratsing. Pictured in college is top UNISON health activist Bill Beekoo, Keith Vas MP, and Glynis Kinnock with the Mauritius ambassador.

It was a good event and lots of good constructive ideas about mobilising the vote for Labour.

Half way through the event Tory ex-Shadow Home Secretary , David Davies,  came into the room, he apparently stopped, looked around him at the UNISON Labour Link posters and said “I think I am in the wrong room” and then scurried off. Of course such behaviour only serves to fuel my long held belief about Comrade Davies and make me wonder why he really turned up to this obviously Labour Party reception and who scared him off at the last moment.  Check link here

Protest by Camden UNISON against NSL Parking

On the way to my branch Executive meeting last night I stopped to speak to UNISON members protesting outside Camden Town Hall (see picture).

The private contractor NSL employed by Lib Dem/Tory run Camden Council refuses to recognise UNISON and is cutting terms and conditions of its staff.

Privately run “for profit” parking enforcement has no place in public service.

Our branch executive later agreed to send a message of support.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Civil and Public Servants Budget day strike

Reasons for strike action

"On 31 July the Cabinet Office first published formal proposals for reform of the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS), in effect the redundancy payment scheme for the civil service....

The proposals tear up the 1987 CSCS agreement, which in our view contains accrued rights based on the 1972 Superannuation Act and replaces them with an inferior set of conditions.

In essence the new scheme laid before Parliament will impose;

•a maximum cap of two years pay and/or £60,000 in any compensation package (however, if a civil servant earns less than £20,000 there is a maximum cap of three years pay)

•the removal of access to pension, unless it is paid for from the compensation payment

•new right for employers within the civil service and related bodies to put together their own voluntary compensation schemes, subject to the statutory minimum and maximum compensation cap being retained

•some limited protections for existing staff who leave as a result of compulsory redundancy.

The under 50s

Approximately 50% of PCS members are between 30 and 50. Anyone earning over £20,000 would suffer a detriment. This detriment becomes greater the more you earn. Nearly 40% of full-time civil servants, earn between £20,000-£30,000 per annum.

Those earning over £30,000 would lose their existing entitlement to three years compensation, which would be replaced with a two year cap, a loss of tens of thousands of pounds in many instances. Those earning between £20,000 and £30,000 would have any compensation capped at £60,000 if they had enough service.

Staff over 50 with five years service

Nearly 30% of PCS membership is aged between 50 and 59. Members with five years service, who are over 50, under the present scheme have an entitlement to an enhanced pension and lump sum with up to 6 2/3 years added.

Under the employer's proposal the entitlement to enhanced pension will be abolished for staff who become 50 in the future. For those aged at least 50 (and with five years service) at 31 March 2010 there would be an option to use their lump sum to access an unreduced pension on redundancy. Those currently between 50 and 60 will have some restricted protection but only in a compulsory redundancy situation.

Pre-1987

For the very specific group who have substantial reserved rights to CSCS benefits dating back to 1 April 1987, their current entitlements would be reduced by 60% over the period 2011-2014.

After publishing the initial proposals the Cabinet Office consulted on them and over 18,000 people responded; the overwhelming majority of whom were opposed to the proposals. Since the consultation period there have been further negotiations following ministerial meetings. Whilst PCS is willing to continue talks, the government laid an amendment to the scheme to change the CSCS before Parliament, on 5 February. The new arrangements will be effective from 1 April 2010.

If implemented as proposed, even with the limited changes included after the consultation, this will seriously reduce the legal and contractual rights of many civil servants and PCS members to compensation in a redundancy situation".

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"I remember the Tories..."



I am not sure that many people remember Tory government properly and of course many have only known life under Labour and have not a clue how vicious and nasty Tory rule can be.

London Region backs Dave Prentis as UNISON General Secretary

Today the Greater London regional committee representing over 130,000 UNISON members overwhelmingly backed Dave Prentis by nominating him for another term as General Secretary. In a secret ballot Dave got 23 votes, Paul Holmes 7 and Delroy Creary 2 votes. I make this well over a 2/3rd majority (in-joke).

This is another great result for the forces of light and reason in the Region. It was interesting that there were no nominations for Roger Bannister even from the London SPEW members? So not sure if there is some sort of a split? No doubt their central committee witch hunters will be out to expel those who fail to toe the democratic centralist Party line.

I understand from an usually reliable source that 11 out of the 12 regions in UNISON have voted to support Dave so far and that Northern region Council will meet next week to consider an unanimous regional committee recommendation to support Dave.

Picture of Dave with London Regional Convenor Gloria Hanson.

Why we're backing Dave Prentis . Dave Prentis election website

Monday, March 22, 2010

Presentation Housing Association Strike and Picket Line

Many apologies to UNISON members in Presentation Housing Association for not mentioning the picket outside their headquarters during last week’s strike (see picture).

Presentation is now a subsidy of Notting Hill Housing Trust and staff there face the same anti-carer and anti-family attacks on their terms and conditions as in the (joke) “parent” company.

Latest news is that talks with Notting Hill management and unions over the dispute will recommence this coming Thursday.

Good! 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Plaistow North Ward canvass

Yesterday afternoon after the street stall in Stratford many of us went off to support the Plaistow North ward Labour Action team who were “on the knocker” with our local MP Lyn Brown.

This action team is pretty much led by UNISON activists from local Council and Health branches.

At the risk of it all sounding just "too good to be true" what I did enjoy about this afternoon was the banter and "esprit de corps" of the group.  Lots of good-natured teasing and leg pulling.  Morale is looking good for the big fight ahead. 

There was also a pretty solid set of canvass returns for Labour. The weather held off until just after we finished the canvass when the heavens opened up and rain would have stopped play. Soggy voter ID sheets are no use to anyone.

Elsewhere in West Ham and Newham we also had canvass teams out in the morning and afternoon.

Jayne Wilkinson for Tividale

I hope any UNISON Labour Link members living or working near Tividale, West Midlands will go out and support top trade union organiser Jayne Wilkinson in her fight to become a Labour Councillor for the ward.

At the moment there are two Labour and one BNP Councillors. Need I say anymore?

"Jayne has lived in the Rowley area all her life and is excited about bringing her experience as an organiser within her own community to Tividale.

Jayne works for Tesco in West Bromwich, where she is Chair and Shop Steward of the store’s USDAW Branch. She has successfully encouraged colleagues to participate in union decision making and has driven up the number of members by engaging with her colleagues.

It is through her USDAW activity that Jayne became involved with Labour. She said, “For me, Labour is the party of the many not the few. I’ve been inspired by the determination of the hard working people I meet through my union work and I know first hand the importance of collective action in order to deliver results that matter . As a mother, I know the issues facing working families, and I will work tirelessly to improve circumstances across the ward.”

Printed by Argraphics, 25 Salisbury Road, Birchfield, Birmingham, B19 1ND
Promoted by Jayne Wilkinson on behalf of herself at Terry Duffy House, Thomas Street, West Bromwich, B70 6NT

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Rain didn’t stop play: Stratford Labour stall

This morning we had a rather “damp” but cheerful West Ham Labour Party street stall outside Stratford shopping centre. Despite the on/off rain I thought it went pretty well - led by members of the Stratford and Newtown Ward Labour Action Team. Together with our MP, Lyn Brown, they picked up loads of case work as well as giving out lots of lovely red balloons.

An irate “opposition” supporter accused me of “endangering” the shopping centre roof by giving kids balloons! Since apparently some of them were letting go of the balloons inside the centre and they would explode when they touch the hot lights on the roof bringing it all tumbling down (or somethink like that). He said I “would be held personally responsible for this” and then rushed off. I thought that I had at long last met up with Mike Law but apparently it wasn’t him.

I had a more interesting and constructive conversation with a shopper who worked in Canning Town. He asked me about what Labour was going to do about bringing down public spending and reducing the national debt. He argued that it was excessive spending on public services that had brought about the debt. My counter argument was that no, it was the collapse in tax revenue caused by the recession that had caused the debt. The real problem was the past over acceptance of a neo-liberal financial model that the “free markets knows best”. It was the Banking and Financial services disaster that brought about this debt not past public spending. It is absolutely amazing to me how blame for this recession, which never, ever, forget was caused solely by the actions of the greedy, corrupt and irresponsible rich friends of the Tory Party, has somehow turned into being the fault of public services?

After we packed up the stall and on route to voter ID (aka door knocking) in Plaistow I had a chat with a long standing Party member about our chances in the forth coming General election. He thought that we have every chance of winning a majority. The most likely scenario at the moment was a hung Parliament but he pointed out that hung parliaments are incredibly rare in our political system (he does have a PHD in history). The General election campaign itself will be absolutely crucial. He reminded me of 1970 and 1992. In 1970 the then Labour government called an election while ahead of the polls and until the last week were widely expected to win. The Tories won because they ran the better campaign . In 1992 Labour were expected to defeat the Tories yet a better than expected performance by Prime Minister John Major and his Party in the campaign resulted in their victory.  So in a tight spot - if they do well, the "underdogs win".

So comrades – there is still everything to play for – but we must play to win.

Friday, March 19, 2010

St Joseph's Day Massacre – UNISON London centre left win

Came home tonight to find a letter from Region with this year’s result of UNISON London Labour Link elections. It was another clean sweep for the forces of “light and reason” in London. Commiserations of course to the losers (apart from the entryists – you know who we mean!).

This is following on the successful outcome of the London Regional Council AGM ballot and the votes on rule changes and motions in the London Labour Link forum.  Looking back over the last few years we have had the:-

St David’s Day Massacre 2007

St Piran’s Day Massacre 2008

V for Victory 2009 (results not released on a “Saints day”)

It's been another good year for a member led and member orientated union in London...so far.  More fun and games ahead.

Show solidarity with British Airways cabin crew

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jim Fitzpatrick MP: West Ham Labour Guest Speaker

Last night Jim was the guest speaker at our monthly West Ham Labour Party General Committee meeting. The Former fire-fighter and trade union activist will be the Labour Party Parliamentary candidate for the new seat of Poplar and Limehouse in our sister borough of Tower Hamlets. Due to boundary changes and gentrification Jim is facing a very strong challenge from a Tory Merchant Banker and of course the loathsome opportunist Gorgeous “George Galloway

Jim came over really well. Despite the enormous pressure he must be under he was relaxed, articulate and self confident.

He explained clearly what are the political problems he and the local Party are facing, why this has come about and what he is doing about it.

Our GC delegates of Bangladeshi origin were the first to congratulate Jim on his speech and to support him and his comments about those who try their best to divide our communities and whip up hate and mistrust.

I thought he went down really well and in the post GC analysis in the pub - some West Ham GC delegates - who have let us say not always been amongst his greatest fans in the past were impressed with his speech and have offered to help him and his CLP out in the forthcoming election.

By co-incidence last week after the House of Commons UNISON Labour Link Housing Association meeting with Minister John Healy MP we bumped into Jim on the way out in the central Lobby. One of the UNISON members with me was a constituent of Jim, who despite being a little bit shy, made me stop everyone so I can introduce her to him so she could thank him personally for the work he had done as her MP to help out her local organisation.

Good bloke. Nuf said.

Must lobby him personally on the "Campaign for Dignity and Respect" for workers in Notting Hill Housing Trust.

I will be helping out Tower Hamlets TULO with organising local Labour Party supporting trade union canvass and leafleting teams in Limehouse & Poplar as well as Bethnal Green & Bow.

(Picture of Jim supporting UNISON Workers Memorial Day ceremony outside Tower Hamlets Town Hall)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Unions 21: “Building Tomorrow’s Pension”

Still catching up on posting things. This well attended event was held on March 3rd in Portcullis House, House of Commons to launch a new Unions 21 publication called “Tomorrow Pensions”. Lynne Jones MP was Chair (middle). Unions 21 Chair Sue Ferns opened meeting by reminding us that unions are still most trusted by ordinary workers with regard to pensions ahead of employer and government. This is across the board. Even 45% of non-union members trust unions to look after pension interests.

First speaker was Paul Moloney (left) Nautilus assistant General Secretary. This union has merged with the Dutch and organises Merchant marine officers. His contribution was entitled “Engaged Investment: is there power in the union?”. Paul set the agenda that current pension policy was failing and we have the spectacle that the major economies of the world are not putting enough money aside to support decent pensions for its workers. He would like to see a co-ordinated response by pension fund trustees to force up safety and other standards in the maritime industry. This is not only good for the maritime unions but also for the pension funds since he argues that “without fail” investment in industries with good safety records produces long term sustainable investment returns.

Derek Benstead (First Actuarial) was next and he talked about “Pension design: is it time to think outside of the box?”

He pointed out that we will never do away with risk. Current 20 years old will probably draw pensions until they are 90. They will live through a number of recessions. Pension schemes which are too rigid will break. His solution is to share risk between state, employers and employees. In his view the Pension Protection Fund is the biggest and best thing to happen in pensions. Defined benefit is just too expensive and “risky” for employers. While the risk for employees with money purchase scheme is that if you are on £30k per year and trying to get £10k per year pension you may end up with £5k or £15k.

His solution is a hybrid pension, Defined contribution for members and 1/120th defined benefit for employers. There should be no refunds back to employers for any pension surplus. Schemes should be career average. He believes that it is important that there should only be discretional annual benefits increases only. He thinks that a major reason for the demise of pension schemes is the law now requires pensions to be increased by up to 2.5. % per year. He thinks this is too expensive and that they should be allowed to go down as well. Need more flexibility. Derek played the role of “Mr Bad Guy” with most of the audience.

David Pitt-Watson (right) was last with “Why a collective approach in investment could be the key to solving the pension’s crisis”. See Union 21 video

David started off as someone who is a City worker by apologising for the complete mess the “City” had made of things recently. He has been doing a lot of research in recent years on Pension structures and costs of investment with Matthew Taylor and the RSA. Including “Citizen Juries" (I was a “witness” to one of these Juries). Defined Contribution (aka money purchase) Pension policy holders typically pay a fee of 1.5% pa. This works out over the lifetime of a policy as 38% of your money goes in fees and you get only 62%. In good Defined Benefit (aka as final salary) schemes it only cost 10% in fees so you get 90% back. If at age 25 you invested £10,000 in a DC single pension premium it will generate £94,000 of fees!

Annuities are also very expensive. The issue is not so much Defined Benefit (DB) v Defined Contribution (DC)? Rather large collective pension schemes v small ones. For example women teachers in a USA scheme who aimed to retire on $2k per month. If a collective “pension pot” rather than annuity provided this money. It would cost a teacher 12.5% of her salary collectively. It would cost 23% salary if done individually. So “by design” pensions could be 83% higher. David admitted he’s been startled over some of the stuff he has read over last 18 months on this subject.

There was a useful Q&A. The risk of large collective DC schemes just ending up as modern day Equitable Life. My question is since the “problem” with DB schemes in increased life expectancy why are DB schemes now “unsustainable” despite many schemes putting back retirement ages? The consensus answer was that DB schemes are still sustainable if more money is paid into them or benefits reduced (or both).

One Unite member of the audience (Peter Sykes?) pointed out that when he hears the term “flexibility” he has to reach for his wallet.

Actuary Hilary Salt asked why did employers introduce DB schemes in the first place? It was to recruit and retain quality staff. This need still remains. There is a new "off balance" risk to companies. Since many employees will be too poor to retire and age discrimination will mean you can’t sack them. Companies will have to pay them off in the future.

Naomi Cooke from GMB pointed out the risk on state from inadequate pensions. Otherwise the low paid and those without decent pensions will have to reply on state benefits. We need to inflation proof pensions or the tax payer will have to pick up the cost. Have to design pensions around what society wants to produce.

Richard Balfe, the Tory advisor on trade unions to Cameron was also there and he actually spoke strongly in favour of public sector defined benefit pensions (shock horror) as not being “gold plated”.

Another person reminded everyone that DB still flourishes in the UK - but only in the board rooms of highly paid top 100 company directors!

A former TUC pensions officer pointed out in 1979 had the Tories not been elected we were on course to have a basic pension of 25% average earning and another 25%% from SERPS. So the average earner could have retired with 50% of earning.

Lets hope that 2010 does not turn out to be another 1979 of lost opportunities for social progress!

Update: I forgot to mention that Alan MacDougall from PIRC had also written a chapter in the report called "Responsible Investment: An Essential Trade Union Tool" but he was unable to attend.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Notting Hill Housing Strike

Today was the first 24 hour period of strike action in Notting Hill Housing Trust. There was a fantastic picket and lots of active support for the Strike. We estimate that over 100 members came to join the protest outside Notting Hill headquarters alone.

Interestingly, the vast majority of the strikers were women who of course will tend to have by far the most to lose if these anti-family policies are scrapped.

Shame about the Notting Hill CMT member who tried to deliberately provoke the pickets by declaring loudly he was “very happy to cross the picket line!” with a big smirk on his face. No wonder the organisation is in such a mess with folk like him in charge!

There was plenty of press interest and messages of support from various trade unions and encouragement from other UNISON branches and trade councils. We were next to a busy street and spent a lot of time encouraging passing motorists to “toot” their horn in support. There was a very good atmosphere amongst the pickets. This being "Notting Hill" we even had a portable CD player blasting out Bob Marley songs.

This was a good first day and hopefully management will come to their senses and start to negotiate. If not - we will be back.

Check out "All Together Worse" for further information and pictures.

Beating the BNP - Barking Day of Action

Yesterday afternoon after the West Ham Labour Party stall in Green Street I went off with a long serving CLP member to Barking to help out with Margaret Hodge and the local Labour Councillor campaign.

The campaign headquarters is in a local Baptist church and is very well run and organised. Soon after we arrived, we were properly briefed and given materials (and grabbed some tasty sandwiches) and sent off to fight the good fight.

We went off with quite a large canvass team to Parsloes Ward which I believe has currently two BNP councillors and one Labour. I thought that the canvass went quite well. People didn’t seem to me to be at all hostile. The international Rugby match was on and two people apologised that they could not speak because of this as they rapidly closed the front door. Fair enough. I didn’t actually get anyone to admit that they were BNP supporters. I had two decent “political” conversations with local residents. The key issue was not immigration but the shortage of affordable housing. A divorced grandmother who was looking after her daughter’s home explained how she was stuck in an expensive private sector flat on the dole since the very high rent meant that she could not work. In another home another resident who worked for the local Council complained that she would have to move since her children could not afford to live locally. Interestingly both of them volunteered that they recognised that the real reason for the housing shortage was a direct consequence of the “right to buy”.

At the end of the session we had mugs of tea and biscuits waiting for us. I was also able to meet my new Facebook friend Graham Letchford. I love the shirts! Graham is standing with our Louise Couling in Gorebrook ward against the fascist Barnbrook.

Photo with Margaret and team outside Labour battle bus. It was a good day.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Notting Hill Housing Strike: Kate “Beware the Ides of March”

Tomorrow (Monday) 15th March there will be the first day of strike action by UNISON members of Notting Hill Housing Trust. The main picket lines will be at their headquarters Broadway, Metro Building, 1 Butterwick, Hammersmith, London W6 8DL. This is about 5 mins from both Hammersmith Underground stations - Come and show solidarity before work or lunch time. Check out the office location here.

Notting Hill Housing is getting rid of carers leave, flexi-time and attacking basic terms and conditions of staff. They are refusing to go to ACAS and are refusing to allow the union to even speak to its Board members. What on earth have they got to hide?

Messages of support can be sent to activists@unisonhablondon.org and to the supporters’ blog set up for UNISON members at Notting Hill Housing http://altogetherworse.blogspot.com/ or http://twitter.com/unisonhousing

You really have to take your hat off to Notting Hill Housing CEO Kate Davies for bringing about in the midst of a recession the first strike in our branch in decades. There was an incredible 93.5% majority in favour of strike action. This is unheard of and must mean that there is appalling morale amongst staff in this organisation. Why are they doing it? According to its own website NHHT has an asset base of £1,317m and an annual turnover of £167m. Group reserves on 2008/2009 totalled £188m and its operating profit was £19.8m.

So there are not any financial reasons for either of these changes or the failure to negotiate with the Union. Getting rid of Carers leave for staff with young sick children or disabled dependants will only save £30k per year. This is less than 1/5th of the CEO’s annual salary.

There are obviously very serious governance failures in the Group. Everyone knows that nearly all the Senior Management team are privately appalled at what has happened but no-one is willing to stand up to the CEO and hold her to account.

The CEO is also notorious as being a housing adviser to Conservative leader, David Cameron, who chaired a Tory think tank report that came up with the proposals that security of tenure should be taken away from secure and assured tenants and that rents should be raised to private “market levels”.

So are we also seeing in Notting Hill Housing what the Tories really think of “non-market” family friendly policies and basic protections for staff that face redundancy or compulsory relocation? So much for caring, compassionate “mend broken Britain” Tories then?

Photo is from the UNISON Housing Association Labour Link meeting last week at the House of Commons after our meeting with Housing Minister John Healey. Some members present decided to present a socialist clench fist salute to Kate who we understand to have been a Revolutionary Communist Party supporter in the past. Obviously this was sometime before Cameron became her best prospect of becoming a Tory life peer .

Green Street Labour Party Stall

Yesterday morning we a very good turnout of local Labour Party members for a stall in Green Street. Members were spread out along this very busy shopping area giving out leaflets and red Labour Party balloons to families.

Many shoppers were from outside Newham so discussions tended to be about national rather than local political issues.

Our MP Lyn Brown (out of picture) was visiting the local shops and businesses on the “West Ham” side of the Road.

Afterwards we sent canvass teams to the local wards while some of us went off to the “Beat the BNP” Day of Action in Barking & Dagenham (see next-ish post).

Notting Hill Strikers meet Karen Buck MP and Glenda Jackson MP at Parliament

Following on from the meeting on Tuesday with Housing minister John Healey and Notting Hill staff. On Thursday evening Karen Buck MP (Westminster North) and Glenda Jackson MP (Hampstead and Highgate) gave a reception at the House of Commons for UNISON members who live in their constituencies. This was to thank members for all their hard work in providing public services.

London UNISON Labour Link arranged for 4 Notting Hill Housing Trust members to attend in order to meet Karen and Glenda and explain what their dispute is about.

On Monday (tomorrow) UNISON members in Notting Hill will take unprecedented strike action against their Chief Executive’s decision to get rid of family friendly policies and attack basic terms and conditions. This extremely highly paid CEO who is a housing advisor to the Conservative Party is refusing to even try conciliation through ACAS or to allow UNISON to speak to its board.

Notting Hill Housing Trust began in Karen’s constituency and is one of its biggest social landlords so she has a particularly keen interest in its affairs.

Both MPs had private discussions with the Strikers and will contacting Notting Hill senior management. The impact of these changes on the mainly female workforce was of major concern.

Also at the reception was veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner who also met up with the strikers and gave a cracking speech on the importance of the Labour movement for ordinary working people. Former MP and current Head of Diversity at Channel 4 Oona King was also had a meeting and was very supportive. Future lobbies are being planned with London Assembly members and Council leaders.

I’ll post more on tomorrows strike later.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hillingdon Local Government UNISON AGM - “Why you should be a Pension rep”

This is a bit late but playing catch up on a few things tonight. Earlier this month I was invited to attend this AGM as a guest speaker on becoming a local government pension rep. Following campaigning nationally by UNISON there is pressure to increase representation of trade union reps on local pension panels and committees. Hillingdon Council have offered an extra seat on its panel (currently they have one). This of course falls short of the UNISON demand for 50% representation but is a start.

My main theme was that it is absolutely imperative that we have trade union members on pension bodies in order to defend the local government pension scheme. We need to make sure that all schemes are properly run and the only real way of doing so is to make sure that we have effective representation by those whose money (deferred pay) it is in the first place. I was pleased that one member did at the end “express an interest” to become a rep.

I really enjoy visiting London region branches and would welcome the opportunity to visit any London branch meetings to make the case for pension reps.

I was also allowed to brief the meeting on the Notting Hill Housing Trust strike on Monday.  Which the branch secretary offerred to send a message of support.

My fellow East London Labour Party loyalist and blogger mucker, Dave Osler, will be pleased that in the collage is a picture of Hillingdon UNISON member and local MP John McDonnell who was also at the meeting!  I had to go before his Parliamentary report to the meeting.

West Ham Labour Action Team

This week I have been delivering leaflets in West Ham Ward, Newham on behalf of the Labour Action team.

You may well recognise one member of the team featured on the last page (see right).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dave Prentis and Notting Hill Housing Strike Monday 15th March

"I would like to offer my full support and solidarity to UNISON members in Notting Hill Housing Trust who are taking strike action on Monday.

Our members in housing associations like Notting Hill work incredibly hard, often for inadequate reward, across the country to provide vital public services in our communities. Notting Hill’s treatment of its own workforce is scandalous – cutting family-friendly benefits which to you are vital, and which don’t cost the organisation much at all.

Notting Hill clearly don’t recognise the clear link between how they treat their staff and the quality of service they provide – or if they do recognise that link, they don’t appear to care about either their staff or their tenants.

Either way, all UNISON has asked for from the beginning has been to sit down with Notting Hill and try to reach an agreement that everyone can sign up to. They have refused all along.

So I salute our members in Notting Hill, who are taking a very brave step, standing up for what they think is right.

I wish you the best of luck".

(Dave Prentis - UNISON General Secretary)

UNISON “Labour Link” meeting: Housing minister John Healey MP

On Tuesday evening I Chaired (for the 2nd consecutive day) a special meeting of UNISON members at the House of Commons! This time on behalf of my branch UNISON Housing Association “Labour Link” (APF) members. Our guest speaker was, John Healey MP, the Minister of State for Housing and Planning.

John started off by thanking UNISON members for the work they do providing essential housing services in often difficult and demanding circumstances. He then gave a very powerful and convincing presentation on the many good things that Labour had done for public housing while also accepting that more needed to be done. He is obviously very proud to have helped enable Councils to start building homes again. He does not think that there should not be any fundamental conflicts between Councils and housing associations over this since there is such a huge task to undertake that there is plenty of opportunity for both Councils and other public landlords.

John praised UNISON literature which points out to tenants that the Tories are openly planning to get rid of security of tenure and increase rents for Council and Housing association tenants to “market rates”. John has written to David Cameron the Conservative leader a number of times to ask him to refute that they have such plans but with no response.

At the meeting we also had Notting Hill Housing Trust staff who are due out on strike action this Monday 15th March to speak to the minister about the dispute and how they are being personally affected.  Why such traditionally moderate staff feel so angry that their CEO is proposing to get rid of family friendly policies and attack their basic terms and conditions. Notting Hill is refusing to even try and conciliate via ACAS and are refusing to allow UNISON to even speak to its Board members or Chair. We believe that there are also possible regulatory issues at stake. John was very concerned about the whole matter and there was a supportive and wide ranging discussion. He undertook to look into the TSA issues we had brought up. In the Q&A we discussed other topics as well such as executive pay levels, governance of boards, supporting people funding and training for young people.

My contribution with regard to Notting Hill was my usual one. Housing organisations that treat their staff as rubbish will also treat their residents in a similar fashion.

UNISON national officer Mike Short also gave a comprehensive report on the current (difficult) national housing issues. But I enjoyed most his recounting of Tony Benn’s simply definition of socialism. “If we have unemployed building workers and homeless people why don’t we get the unemployed to build homes for the homeless”.

Clive Efford MP also addressed the meeting and had some interesting (and unrepeatable) comments about “Tories” and top hats.  While our branch regional organiser Colin Inniss also spoke and brought up a number of topical branch local issues. Afterwards we retired to nearby Whitehall licensed premises for some light refreshments and carry on the debate.

All in all it went really well. I think that I had the most positive feedback about any Labour Link meeting I have ever been involved in.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Farewell to the Four. Martyrdom Postponed! Protest!

Hat tip thingy Icepicker!

Check out this and that

UNISON Million Voice “Guerrilla projection”

The Picture is from a projection against a direct building near St Thomas hospital, London on Monday evening. This was to bring home the likely impact of cuts in the public sector.

“Public buildings and major tourist attractions in London, Birmingham and Manchester will be lit up this week with the union's latest campaign advert.

The adverts – a 60 and 40 second film, one aimed at potential members and the other at the public – graphically depict the campaign's key theme: how life is changed for the worse when public sector jobs are cut.

"Public sector cuts are looming large, and UNISON's new ads shine a light on the story behind the facts and figures," says general secretary Dave Prentis.

"The human cost of cuts is people left without vital services. Emergency call centre operators, forensic experts, hospital porters, nurses and social workers all provide the services people need and rely on.

"Why should hard-working people pay for the recession when the bankers who caused this crisis are still getting billion pound bonuses? It is not right that services are being axed when the super-rich can bend the rules and avoid paying their fair share of tax."

Hat-tip LondonSE1

BROMLEY LG, GREENWICH LG & TENANT SERVICES AUTHORITY BRANCHES

"...the above branches were placed under regional supervision on Friday 5 March 2010.

Regional staff attended the offices of these branches following the NEC decision to place them under regional supervision due to the fact that they are not functioning effectively under UNISON rules.

The decision is taken under the following rules.

Rule D2.1. "The general management and control of the Union between National Delegate Conferences shall be vested in the National Executive Council… It shall have full power and authority to act on behalf of the Union in every respect and for every purpose falling within the objects of the Union. …"

Rule G8.3.3. "An employed official is also entitled to visit a branch where it appears to the General Secretary or the Regional Secretary that a branch may no longer be functioning effectively."

The objectives of supervision are to:

• ensure members obtain effective support and representation

• ensure the branch functions within the unions rules and the union is protected from legal challenge

• work with members, stewards and branch officers to review and establish effective branch and workplace organisation

The practical arrangements in place are as follows:

• the Regional Organiser has become the Branch Secretary on a pro temp basis

• existing branch officers remain in post working under the direction of the Regional Organiser

• decision making functions of the branch required under rule will be taken by branch stewards working under the direction of the region.

• the Regional Organiser will be required to make quarterly reports to the D&O Committee

• supervision will be lifted once the D&O Committee is satisfied that the branch is functioning effectively again under rule

I understand that some reports have been circulated alleging these branches were subject to ‘dawn raids’, seizure of computer hard drives and case files. This is not the case. Regional Staff attended all three branches to provide support and assistance, to secure the assets of the union and ensure that support and services to members are maintained.

Members in the branches concerned are being kept fully informed of developments".

(In the light of the deliberately inaccurate and blatant untruths being put out about these branches who have been put into supervision - this is the truth about the matter. No "dawn raids" no "seizures" and all within union rules.  This advice was sent out to all regional branch secretaries and Committee Chairs. Check out this about the ET judgement JG) 

Public Spending Cuts Hurt

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

UNISON Public Statement on Employment Tribunal case of Kelly and Others –v- UNISON

"UNISON welcomes the ruling by the Employment Tribunal that the union did not discriminate against four members on grounds of their political beliefs when it disciplined them for producing and distributing a leaflet that was alleged to be offensive and racially discriminatory.

The ET unanimously dismissed all the claims brought against UNISON by branch officers Brian Debus, Onay Kasab, Glenn Kelly and Suzanne Muna.

UNISON has not made any public comment or comment to its members during the three years since the original publication of the leaflet. It is however now appropriate to set out the background to the case and to give a short summary of the ET’s decision.

Background

At the 2007 National Delegate Conference (NDC) the four members produced a leaflet alleging that the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) were rejecting an unprecedented number of motions. The leaflet questioned whether this was because the motions were controversial.

The leaflet carried a cartoon depicting the SOC as the three wise monkeys.

Clytus Williams, the Chair of the SOC a black man. Given this, some delegates found the cartoon not just unfunny, but offensive and racist.

The chair of the Black Members Committee said it “belonged in the past with Bernard Manning”. Members of the SOC also complained that the leaflet was insulting to them generally.

An investigation was launched into the conduct of the four members. This was followed by disciplinary action.

The ET decision

The ET found that the members’ beliefs did not fall within the protection of the Religion and Belief Regulations (2003), which outlaw discrimination on grounds of religious or philosophical beliefs.

It added that their views “conflict with the fundamental rights of others and the dignity of the individual and are not worthy of respect……..in a democratic society” and concluded that philosophical beliefs do not include political beliefs.

However the ET also considered whether the members had been subjected to any discrimination on grounds of their political beliefs, whether or not they were covered by the regulations.

The ET’s conclusions:

1. The four members alleged that the decision to launch an investigation into their conduct for producing and distributing the leaflet was direct discrimination and harassment on grounds of their beliefs – specifically that they were Marxists/Trotskyists and members of The Socialist Party.

The ET found that, given the strength of feeling about the leaflet, it was entirely reasonable for Unison to consider the perception of the leaflet as being racist and to deal with that by ordering an investigation into its production.

The ET found that, given Unison has a policy of equal treatment, it was “not an option” for Unison “to do nothing”.

2. The ET also concluded that it was appropriate for Malcolm Cantello, the then UNISON President, “to consider that the leaflet was offensive and denigrated the chairman and members of the SOC, for Mr [Clytus] Williams to consider it was insulting to the SOC, and for [Unison] to investigate it under their rules”.

The ET did not require UNISON to explain why its action against the four members was not discriminatory because it said there was a complete lack of evidence of discrimination.

3. The Claimants alleged that the full investigation into their conduct carried out by two national officers , amounted to direct discrimination and harassment on grounds of their beliefs.

The ET unanimously dismissed these allegations, saying that the national officers “did not approach their investigation with a pre-judgment based on the philosophical belief of the Claimants of which they were aware”.

4. The members alleged that the decision taken by the NEC to move their cases to a formal disciplinary hearing, the manner in which the disciplinary process was conducted and the length of time taken to hear their disciplinary case amounted to direct discrimination and harassment on grounds of their beliefs.

The ET unanimously dismissed these allegations, finding that the members had failed to provide any evidence that their treatment was on grounds of their beliefs".

(As a UNISON London Regional Council Officer I was sent a copy of this announcement.  After all the deliberate untruths, smears and abuse heaped upon the union by unrepresentative extremists and their supporters I hope that this true message is now spread as widely as possible - John Gray)

Monday, March 08, 2010

UNISON London Labour Link Forum 2010

This year’s Forum took place in a committee room at the House of Commons. The Forum is a regional annual meeting of Labour Link delegates from London UNISON branches. It debates Rule amendments, policy motions and tabled reports on finances and work plans.

We had a GLA report from Joanne McCartney and “Fighting the BNP” call to arms from Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking. Our key note speaker was the Foreign Secretary David Miliband MP who arrived fresh from giving evidence at the Chilcot enquiry into the Iraq war.

The usual daft rule change by the usual suspects on restricting the franchise on electing our committee members to delegates who only attend the Forum meeting was overwhelmingly defeated. A fairly useful motion by LFEPA branch on “Investment not cuts in public service-sorting Labour Priorities” was “improved” by an amendment.

We also passed a motion in favour of proportionate representation. Both these motions will be going to national Labour Link forum.

I only took notes about on Joanne’s report since I chaired the meeting for the other two speakers. She started off by pointing out if you want to see what a Tory Government would be like - look at what is happening to London. Conservative mayor Boris Johnson is already breaking manifesto promises. He is cutting full time Police numbers and trying to replace them with unpaid specials. There will be a smaller GLA budget for policing for the first time. Boris not committed to Safer Neighbourhood Team model (which in my view would be a disaster if it went). There have been massive increases in London transport fares particularly for buses. Boris is of course not a “detail person” and this can be seen at Mayor “Question time” were he relies on “bluster and bluff” rather than answering the questions. There is no vision out there. Gossip from City Hall 8th floor is that Boris wants to return to Parliament if the Tories win. Watch your back Cameron! On a serious note many community groups have complained that they now feel distant from the Mayor and the Assembly since Boris has cancelled nearly all community based events.

Joanne was aware of our request to arrange a meeting with GLA members and staff from Notting Hill Housing Group who are due on strike next week and we be arranging this soon.

Both David and Margaret gave positive and confident speeches and were well received by the Forum. David comprehensively destroyed the Tory myths that Labour had not improved or invested in public services and that the Tories had not really “changed” into a modern centre and progressive Party. He also dismissed the other myths that there was no difference between Labour and the Tories. This was not at all a speech from anyone expecting defeat any time soon. Margaret gave a firsthand account of the nasty, violent and thuggish BNP threat in Barking and Dagenham. On Saturday I hope to be part of a UNISON Labour Link canvassing team in Barking.

The Finance report and work plan went well and we also had a short report by national Labour Link officer Daniel Zeichner. In AOB I wished all the London UNISON Labour link members who are Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (2 were present) and all those standing for election to Councils (7 present) the best of luck. I also asked for messages of support to be sent to my branch over the Notting Hill Housing Strike for “fairness and dignity”. Forum closed until 2011.

Roll on a historic 4th term Labour victory in the Parliamentary elections and a majority of London Councils turning red as well.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Working for you in Canning Town

This afternoon I was trying to keep up with senior Newham Councillor, Pat Holland, while leafleting in Canning Town.

Newham London Run2010

Off message-ish but this morning I took part in this 10k run which started off at Stratford Park then took us up to the new Olympic stadium (where I was told off by a security guard for taking pictures); along the Greenway; West Ham Park and the finish.

Newham elected Labour mayor, Sir Robin Wales, set us off alongside local hero and Olympic 400m champion, Christine Ohuruogu. There were 3700 starters and I took 1 hr 18 mins to finish (I was pacing Mrs Grayee – this is my excuse and I’m sticking to it). Apparently I came 104th according to my “age group and gender” which sounds better - whatever it actually means.

It was to my mind pretty cruel for the organisers to make us actually run past the finishing line at the 6k point!

Fellow West Ham Labour Party and UNISON member, Forhad Hussain, was with us at the start while the first person I saw at the end was Harvinder Singh Virdee who was a “Newham volunteer” (see pics). While Labour Councillor Ayesha Chowdhury also took part but I did not see her.

It was all in all a good day and I look forward to next year’s event. I was going to run today for the Charity “Alone in London” but I am planning an “off road” ½ marathon later this year and think I will raise more money with a longer race.

I am currently losing the race with middle aged spread and have decided that since I am too weak and greedy to cut the calorific intake I will have to expand the calorific output. So I am aiming to take part in a full marathon early next year (even though I swore blind I will never do another one).

The friendly atmosphere; good organisation; blue... blue skies and loads of early spring sunshine of today leads you into such rash promises 

Saturday, March 06, 2010

West Ham Labour Party

New sign and freshly painted front for West Ham Labour Party headquarters in Stratford High Street. 

Well done Forhad!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Beat the BNP in Barking Day of Action - Saturday 13 March 2010

"Barking Labour Party held a record day of action last Saturday with over 1 000 contacts made. Thank you so much to everyone who came along and helped out.

Our next day of action will be on the 13th March. We will be at Wood Lane Baptist Church between 11am and 4pm, with a lunch provided between 1pm and 2pm. I really do hope that you can join us. We give a warm welcome and full training to anyone who hasn't been canvassing before.

From next week we are increasing our phone canvassing. We are running sessions from 6pm each evening in Barking, please do drop in if you have some spare time, the number to call is 07576 323 109.

I look forward to seeing you next Saturday in Barking.

Best wishes

Margaret Hodge"

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Cameron's Downfall



I think that YouTube Robebbson Films's may have got this idea from Icepicker100 post here. It’s a little bit rude and of course totally unfair to the Tories - but I do like it (and very topical ending)!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Michael Foot

I got a text this afternoon about his death from a good trade union comrade on my mobile while I was travelling on the tube to a union meeting.

It’s always shocking when these things happen even if you didn’t know him and he had lived to a ripe old age (96).

I can still just about remember seeing him speak in person for the first time in Rhyl Labour club, North Wales. I think it was soon after the election defeat in 1979. But he was the first real true “orator” I had ever heard live. Even though before he spoke he appeared to be very ordinary and unassuming.

I think that Harry Barnes has the best take on him – see here and hat tip thingy for the above photo of Michael at the 1960 Labour conference.

The Levithan Fiddler


Who would have suspected? What really good fiddling and a great folk song as well. I think he should give up the day job.

Hat-tip thingy Cdr Baby Trotter.

Enjoy!

(It's a UNISON thing)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Canning Town Voter ID

I was out tonight campaigning in Canning Town with West Ham Labour Party members Bryan Collier and Ahmed Noor. Byran is a UNISON member who use to be a member of my 3rd favourite branch, Lambeth Local Government!   I must have a chat to him some time about the “Levithan Witch hunter”.

While Ahmed is I am reliably informed the son of the first Asian shop keeper in Green Street.

There were a large number of Newham “Team Labour” canvassers out tonight. I was leading our team and wished I bought a torch since it was so dark I was sending them to the wrong door numbers. Yet another reason for my firm belief that political campaigning is ideally a summer sport. The response tonight from voters was again very good. 

Blogging Labour MP Tom Harris posted yesterday a really sensible article on political canvassing.

Millions stand behind me

"Sign the petition to demand Cameron’s pal Ashcroft pays back the £127 million he avoided " Left Foot Forward"

Picture mydavidcameron.com

Monday, March 01, 2010

Black candidate beaten by black votes”?

Check out this post with its provocative headline regarding the outcome of the recent Leyton and Wanstead Labour Party selection for its Prospective Parliamentary Candidate. This is on the blog “Operation Black Vote”.

I will admit to being a mate of Terry Paul who came 2nd (and check out this, this and that)

No-one is really suggesting that John Cryer did not win this election fairly under Party rules and by a significant margin. He was the clear leader in all the rounds. Looking at all the figures I think he would have won in any case so well done to him and I am sure that he will make a very good MP for the CLP.

The row is about whether or not Ahmad Shahzad (Chair of BAME – see picture) who came 3rd should have “encouraged” his supporters to vote for another black candidate if he was knocked out. It would clearly appear that they were not. Which is not good if you are Chair of BAME and “Our main aim is to work towards increasing the number of black and Asian and other minority Members of Parliament and other elected bodies.

While this could be “cock up” rather than "conspiracy" (and I repeat that I think that John would have won anyway) this sort of thing needs to be sorted out asap.

“Dear John...fob off” - Notting Hill Housing strike

This morning I received this letter from Notting Hill Housing Trust CEO, Kate Davies. This is in response to my letter to her here about the lack of dignity and respect for staff at Notting Hill Housing. It is the same bland, inaccurate and rather pointless stock response that I have seen been sent to all the other people who have contacted her on this same issue. Regardless of what they have said. It’s a wonder that it took a fortnight for her to reply?

Her staff has now voted by 93% for strike action which is unheard of in the sector and must demonstrate to anyone how disastrous industrial relations are in the organisation she supposedly “leads”.

There will now be a strike of UNISON members on Monday 15th March. Well done Kate. The first strike by our branch in decades.

(double click on picture left to bring up detail)