Sunday, July 24, 2016

"Sports Direct" 21st Century Workhouse employer & unacceptable face of capitalism

The press has been full of headlines about vile UK retailer "Sports Direct" as being a "workhouse employer" who treats its workers like dirt.

Where women give birth in its toilets and fleets of "999" ambulances have to be sent out to aid workers who are too frightened to report sick. Never mind those forced to give "sexual favours" to managers to keep their jobs.

Check out this post by Tom P arguing that "Sports Direct" is not only a rotten employer but an economic basket case and risk to those pension and insurance funds that invest in it.

Following the collapse of the share price, investors need to get a grip on the company and its complete lack of governance. Inhumane treatment of its workforce is not only morally wrong but hits the bottom line.

I am really proud of the role of Trade Union Share Owners (TUSO) in helping to bang the drum on this issue. Companies that are human right abusers are also in the long term just bad investments.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Olympic Triathlon in Newham 2016 for UNISON "there for you" and Greek Solidarity Campaign

I have finally got my act together and am planning to complete an Olympic distance Triathlon with fellow West Ham Labour Councillor, Terry Paul, in Newham on Sunday 18 September 2016. We will invite all other Newham Councillors (and anyone else) to take part.

We are self organising this Triathlon and aim to swim 1k at the Aquatic Centre in the Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford then Cycle 40k up and down in Newham then return to the Olympic Park and complete a 10k run.

I will be raising funds for the UNISON charity "there for you" and the "Greece Solidary Campaign".

If you wish to sponsor me for "there for you" click here and/or the GSC then click here

(pictures above of me from 2002 and 2012 London Marathon, 2014 London Triathlon (with "Red Tel") and the 2016 Great Newham Run as well as "there for you", GSC and Newham coat of arms )

Friday, July 22, 2016

Labour Leadership Elections 2016: UNISON members

I am starting to get enquiries from UNISON members at my branch about whether or not they are eligible to vote in the leadership elections.

It is somewhat "complicated".

There is a really useful page on the UNISON website here

"The Labour Party is holding an election for the leadership of the party.

To register to vote, UNISON members must:

◾Be a member of the union before 12 January 2016
◾Be a member of the affiliated political fund (also known as "Labour Link") This is an opt-in when you join where you agree part of your subscriptions can go into the fund.
Register with the Labour party as an affiliated union member. When you register you agree to: ◾support the aims and values of the Labour party and that you are not a supporter of any other political party
◾Be on the electoral register at the address given to the union and the Labour party.

The Labour party will be conducting the election. Queries about the ballot or members wishing to check if their applications have been accepted by the Labour Party should contact the Labour Party

UNISON’s nomination process UNISON Labour Link, which represents those members who pay into the affiliated political fund, will follow standard procedures for agreeing any nomination. This will mean:
◾that all candidates have an opportunity to outline their policy agenda and leadership credentials; ◾regional Labour Link committees are consulted;
◾the UNISON Labour Link Committee, consisting of 23 elected members, agrees which candidate to support.

Follow us on Twitter – @UNISONpolitics"

So if you are a UNISON member and got a Leadership ballot party last year (and nothing has changed) you should be okay.

You can check to see if you are in the affiliated political fund (also known as "Labour Link") by logging into your own membership account via MYUNISON (you will need your membership number).

If you are an affiliated political fund (also known as "Labour Link") member you must register with the Labour Party as an affiliated union member by Monday 8 August to get a vote.

It is too late to join UNISON to get a vote and too late if you are in UNISON but not already an Affiliated member.

I hope this is clear to everyone (as mud)

Key dates for affiliates

Friday 22 July Hustings period begins

Monday 8 August, 12noon Close of sign ups for new affiliated supporters and final date for updated affiliated supporter lists to be provided to the Party

Friday 12 August, 12 noon Final date for new affiliated supporters to be provided to the Party

Monday 15 August, 12noon Close of supporting nominations

w/c Monday 22 August Ballot mailing despatched

Wednesday 14 September, 12noon Last date for electronic ballot reissues

Wednesday 21 September, 12 noon Ballot closes

Saturday 24 September Leadership Conference

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cameron’s premiership saw least housebuilding since 1923

"David Cameron had the worst housebuilding record of any Prime Minister since 1923. An average of 123,560 houses were built in England and Wales during each year of his premiership, according to data released by the independent House of Commons library. 

Fourteen per cent fewer homes were built in England than under Gordon Brown and 21% fewer than under Tony Blair. Launching a new report in Parliament, John Healey MP, who commissioned the research, called for a new “progressive devolution” of housing, aiming to give disadvantaged areas fresh powers and funding. 

The report, written by the Smith Institute, found devolution in housing has widespread support, but progress is “slow, piecemeal and undermined” by “inappropriate” national programmes.  The Independent"

(Not that Blair or Brown ensured that enough homes were built either but...)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

£238 million reasons to stop Barclays Bank LOBO cheats ripping off Newham Residents

This was the written question I put to the Newham Deputy Mayor and Cabinet member for Finance, Lester Hudson, at the Full Council meeting last week

To the Executive Advisor on Finance, Cllr Lester Hudson

"Last week 3 more employees of Barclays Bank were found guilty in Court of criminally conspiring to rig the Libor interest rate downwards between 2005 and 2008.

This was precisely the same time that Barclays sold £238m of so called “range lobos” loans to Newham Council. The interest repayment cost of these loans goes up if base interest rates and LIBOR go down.

So we had on the one hand, an arm of Barclays making huge amounts of money for themselves and the Bank from driving interest rates down and profiting from these moves, when another part of the bank was earning huge amounts of money from selling us loans that would cost more in interest if rates go down. This cannot be right.

In the light of these and other recent court convictions for conspiracy and fines for interest rate rigging will the Executive member please reconsider his decision not to take legal action against Barclays for fraud and damages and for us to recover the millions of pounds that Barclays and other banks have cheated from Newham residents and stop them cheating them further in the future.

 John Gray. West Ham Ward Councillor.

Cllr Hudson responded by saying that the impact of the Libor fraud was relatively minor and that it was too expensive for Newham to take on Barclays Banks by itself but he would be interested in taking part in some collective class action led by the Local Government Association.

I had the right to ask a verbal supplementary question, so I asked why hasn't he taken up the offer given by Cllr Fiaz, who shares my concerns about Banks cheating and robbing residents over LOBO to actually meet some of the experts who think Newham has a legal case against them? Especially since now it seems that there could be a "no win, no fee" deal on offer to get our money back?

He replied that he was suspicious of "no win, no fee" lawyers since there was no such thing as a free lunch.

I argued back "just meet them" for "one hour" and find out!

The Newham Recorder covered the issue here, where I expressed my disappointment at the lack of progress but the pressure group, Debt Resistance, who were also at the meeting think that the Executive have moved their position in favour of "considering" at least some sort of collective class action.

We have to move this issue on. It just makes me sick in the stomach that the Council have had savage cuts in our budget at the same time we have been ripped off by the Banks for millions and millions of pounds. Many of these loans are 70 years long!!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Employment Tribunal Fees Review: "You are fired because I can - and if you are by yourself there is little or nothing you can do about it"

Checkout this report by employment law expert Daniel Barnett.  Workers should not fool themselves that the law protects them at work.

Despite our faults, trade unions are the only real defenders of your rights at work. To get any chance of justice at work in this country you either have to be rich... or a trade union member.

The last Tory Government introduced upfront fees for seeking fairness at work. In most cases £250 for simply making a claim and then a staggering £950 for the hearing. £1200 in total!

Never mind the cost of paying for your solicitors or any other fees. No wonder there are so few actual claims now despite many of them thought to be potentially with merit and therefore winnable. Rogue bosses up and down the country are rubbing their hands with glee.

"The House of Common Justice Committee has published its review into Court and Tribunal Fees.  Note this is not the government review which was completed in 2015 but has not been published, about which the report is deeply critical at paras 58 and 59.

These are the key findings of the report:-

there has been a significant drop in the number of employment tribunal claims

the government's assertion that the drop is largely attributable to the success of Acas Early Conciliation is "even on the most favourable construction, superficial" (para 69)

fees "have had a significant adverse impact on access to justice for meritorious claims" (para 69)

the 'type A' and 'type B' claim distinction did not relate to the complexity or length of cases (para73)

the level of fees should be a "substantially reduced" (para 79)

the remission system should be overhauled, with only one application needed (to cover both issue and hearing fees)

The report also recommends special consideration - and a review of the three month time limit - in pregnancy discrimination cases (para 79).

This report is embarrassing for the government, but has little political impact (especially as the timing of the report, three days before the Brexit vote, means it will receive very little press attention)".

Monday, July 18, 2016

Newham Co-op Party AGM 2016 (Rerun)

Back this evening from a rerun of the Newham Co-operative Party AGM. Due to "irregularities" at the AGM in January the AGM was rerun with Co-op Party officials chairing the meeting.

I was really pleased that longstanding Co-op Party stalwart, Gill Hay, was elected Chair. The Vice Chair was won by Jeanette Dye from East Ham. Neil Wilson was elected unopposed as secretary and Averil Dohohoe as Treasurer.

Alan Griffiths who has done so much for the Co-op Party and turned our branch into the second biggest in the Country was re-elected as Membership secretary. I was elected unopposed as assistant secretary as was the auditors.

I was also elected unopposed with 3 others to the Co-op London Regional Council.

The Co-op delegates to East Ham and West Ham Labour Party General Committees will be decided later by a preference count of votes cast last night.

The evening was marred by the abusive and threatening behavior outside the meeting by one Co-op member towards another, which I will be bringing to the attention of Party officials. Such behaviours are not acceptable in the Co-op Party or any other progressive organisation. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

London Recruits - The young Londoners who undertook secret missions against South Africa's apartheid regime

"At a time when ANC membership was banned, its activists executed or imprisoned, exiled leader Oliver Tambo lit the fuse on a plan that saw young women and men travel to South Africa disguised as honeymooning couples, tourists and business trippers.

Recruited by Ronnie Kasrils, working undercover in London, the volunteers exploited the 'whites only' policies of apartheid South Africa to carry out clandestine missions. From 1969, under the noses of the police, the recruits unfurled banners from landmarks, exploded home-made leaflet bombs at packed train stations and played rousing speeches to crowds from improvised sound systems, signaling to thousands of Africans living under the regime that the struggle for freedom was very much alive.

   Their story remained secret for decades. Now, nearly 50 years on, the legacy of their work can finally be celebrated on film. With unique access to the brave women and men who risked their lives in solidarity with the liberation struggle, London Recruits will tell their story:-"

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Who is this thug? Manchester City Centre 3.50am Sunday 10 July

I haven't done this type of thing before on blogger but this yob is wanted by Police to "assist" them in their enquirers following the serious and unprovoked assault on the partner of a friend of mine. This could have been a murder investigation.

"Police have released a photograph of a man they want to speak to after a 28-year-old man was attacked and left with a fractured skull in Manchester City Centre. 
At around 3.50am on Sunday 10 July 2016 a 28-year-old man was seriously assaulted on Portland Street outside the Siam Orchid, Manchester City Centre.
The victim was waiting for a taxi when he was head-butted and punched, knocking him unconscious.
The attacker then fled along Sackville Street towards Bloom Street with another man.
The man was left with multiple injuries including a fractured eye socket, a bleed on the brain and a fractured skull, which he received hospital treatment for.
Police have released a photograph of a man they want to speak to.
Detective Constable Phil Bainbridge of GMP’s City of Manchester team, said: “The attacker is clearly a violent and aggressive individual who knowingly left a man in a serious condition after he had attacked him in the middle of a busy street.
“I am appealing for the man in the photograph to come forward, and anyone who recognises him to contact police as they may have vital information that could help our investigation.”
Anyone with information should contact police on 0161 856 1398 quoting 123846J/16 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Protect your LGPS pension – sign the petition

UNISON pensions team

July 2016

Protect your pension – sign the petition!

Dear John
Nearly 85,000 people like you have already signed the LGPS parliamentary petition. Please take 30 seconds to add your signature to theirs.
What’s the problem?
The government has announced plans to force individual Local Government Pension Scheme funds to invest in UK infrastructure projects. This is instead of direct government funding of important projects – even if it doesn’t give the best return for LGPS members’ pensions.
UNISON is not against LGPS funds investing in infrastructure, but we believe that investment decisions should be made by the fund managers and their members, not government ministers.
Such a significant change to your pension funds should be debated in parliament.

Our records show you are a member of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), so you might be interested to know that if we get 100,000 signatures by September we will have the opportunity for a debate in the House of Commons.
Five million people like you rely on the Local Government Pension Scheme to pay their pension.
This is why UNISON has launched the petition calling for a parliamentary debate and is asking you, as a scheme member, to add your name today.
Best wishes
Jon Richards
UNISON national secretary (pensions)

P.S. Find out more about UNISON and pensions and about your LGPS pension.

(See my previous post on this important matter)