Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fascism in 1930's East London

Fascinating post by local history blog "E7 Now & Then" on Fascism in  Forest Gate, Newham, East London during the 1930s.

I have lived in Forest Gate since 1988 and I knew that Moseley and his fascists use to hold open air meetings at the old bandstand  near to where I now live in Wanstead Flats.

I didn't realise that I passed the former local British Union of Fascists district headquarters everyday on the way to and from the railway station.

The post is largely about Forest Gate but mentions fascist activities elsewhere in East London.

I think we should be proud that despite the mass unemployment and economic hardship of the 1930's that the fascists were never able to win any significant level of electoral support in London.

The Forest Gate fascists seemed to have been composed solely of racist middle class anti-semitics and working class jack boot uniform fetishists. I suspect they differed very little from our modern day racists and  fascists.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The truth about UKIP (they're even worse than the Tories)

Great post on "Unions Together" on the truth about UKIP. What many workers fail to understand is that UKIP is not just a protest vote against Europe led by some loud mouth millionaire maverick who doesn't like his Brussels sprouts!   UKIP is an ultra right wing Tory extremist Party, who would cut our pay, get rid of TUPE protections, maternity rights, sell off the NHS, cut taxes for the rich and get rid of paid holidays. 

I think the wider Labour Movement has to take some responsibility for our failure to make it clear to our members that many of the employment rights that people take for granted in this country are actually only there because of the European Union and if right wing fanatics such as UKIP had their way, workers in this country would be completely stuffed.

Our relationship with Europe does need reform and we need to have grown up conversations about immigration and our national identity but for most folk voting UKIP is simply cutting your nose to spite your face.

The last thing we all need is a political Party even more right wing and reactionary than even this current Tory led coalition Government.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Workers' Memorial Day 28 April 2014 - Remember the Dead, Fight for the living.

"A short film commissioned by Hartlepool TUC to mark Workers' Memorial Day, and annual commemoration of all those affected by work-related accidents and illnesses.

Because worker safety is a full time job".

 Video Created by Gary Kester, Marketing & Media Services Hartlepool College of Further Education ©2014 Category Education Licence Standard YouTube Licence

Monday, April 14, 2014

Appeal to Welsh Rugby Footballers (1914)

Not sure whether to smile or cry at this Welsh newspaper clipping from the First World War.

I doubt that any form of footballer skills were much use against German barbed wire, machine guns and artillery during British infanty attacks on the western front.

You can see the pressure that was put on young men to join up- if you didn't you were either unpatriotic or a coward (or both)

See list of Welsh International Rugby Union players killed in First World War.  

Hat tip Captain Swing (who I have asked for a reference for this clipping)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Therefore, when we build," John Ruskin "The Seven Lamps of Architecture" (1849)

On hoarding outside building site in Holloway Road,Islington, London near my branch office. I wonder what people will think of this modern development in 50 years or so?   Will it meet the test? 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Strange Death of Private Pensions in Tory Britain

Excellent article below by Michael Johnson on the possible consequences of the budget announcement on annuities. Michael is of course a former advisor to David Cameron but now describes himself as "non political". So I hope he doesn't mind my competely non partisan title and photo in this post :)

A very senior Labour Pension figure described Michael to me as being "100% wrong on Public Pensions and 100% right on Private Pensions".

"Osborne may have sounded the death knell for private pensions"

by Michael Johnson April 10, 2014, 8:59pm

THERE is a scene in The Italian Job in which the gang is testing how to gain access to the contents of a security van. The resulting explosion destroys the vehicle, prompting Michael Caine to comment, “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” Similar sentiments could be expressed about the Budget’s consequences for private pensions: it could prompt their demise, although some believe they are already in terminal decline.

The Budget revealed a contradiction in the government’s personal pensions strategy. Pensions minister Steve Webb is pursuing a collectivisation agenda, under his “defined ambition” banner. In particular, this encourages people to pool their longevity risk, which is sensible given that it is cheaper to hedge risk collectively. Annuity books use the same risk pooling principle. But by removing any requirement to buy an annuity from 2015, the Budget has catalysed a collapse in future annuity purchases. Is risk pooling “in” or “out”? One senses a philosophical clash in the corridors of power, between paternalism, liberalism and statism. Perhaps this is a price of coalition politics, but it has potentially significant implications for the future of private pensions.

Essentially, the government seems to have forgotten that annuities are pensions. They are the principal source of the retirement income certainty that most retirees crave. Bad value some may be (QE has a lot to answer for), but ready access to the whole pot at 55 is unlikely to be in everyone’s best interests. The problem is that there are no obvious alternatives, although “self-annuitisation” may catch on. By steadily buying long-dated corporate and government bonds from the age of 50, say, savers could cut out the industry’s regulatory costs and profit margins; larger pensions would result.

That aside, the government has left a void. Or has it? By increasing ISAs’ annual allowance to £15,000, has the chancellor signalled that private pensions are finished, a tacit acceptance of public disenchantment with pensions, distrust of the industry, and the latter’s poor performance? The shift in emphasis towards saving is illustrated by the growing popularity of stocks and shares ISAs (£16.5bn subscribed in 2012-13, up 59 per cent in the last six years), perhaps the last trusted brand in the savings arena. By comparison, individuals’ contributions to personal pensions (including stakeholder) totalled £7.7bn (which includes basic rate tax relief), down 25 per cent over the same period. And as for Generation Y (the under-35s), the word “pension” simply does not resonate.

Politically, encouraging people to provide for retirement through Isas is hugely attractive. It would give the chancellor a unique opportunity to grab a generation’s worth of cashflow, because an Isa’s main tax incentive is in retirement (drawings are tax free), while pensions attract tax relief on contributions, i.e. a generation earlier. Last year, retirement saving incentives cost the Treasury £54bn, more than the combined budgets for Scotland (£28bn), Wales (£15bn) and Northern Ireland (£10bn). In January 2014, the chancellor said that, after the next election, a further £25bn must be cut to help eliminate the deficit. For a cost savings-hungry chancellor, pensions tax relief is now the lowest-hanging, juiciest fruit in Whitehall.

From Labour’s perspective, tax relief’s inequitable distribution is a logical target. It is extraordinary that the top 1 per cent of earners, in least need of financial incentives to save, receive 30 per cent of all tax relief, more than double the total paid to half of the whole working population. This partly explains why the huge annual spend has failed to catalyse the broad-based retirement savings culture that Britain needs. Proposing a more redistributive framework for tax relief would attract widespread support, given that those who would lose out are the 13 per cent of taxpayers who pay higher rate income tax: 87 per cent of workers would in some way benefit.

Meanwhile, the Treasury’s tax relief contributions make it the fund management industry’s largest client. Since 2002, it has injected, through people’s pension pots, £270bn in cash, on which charges and fees are levied. This is akin to a state subsidy of one of the highest paid industries in the world. The industry’s defence of the status quo confirms that it knows that it is a primary beneficiary of the Treasury’s largesse. To misquote Sir Winston Churchill: never was so much taken by so few from so many.

The opportunity to reform retirement saving incentives is potentially attractive to both the political right and left, albeit for different reasons. That notwithstanding, the structure of the UK’s incentives framework faces a fundamental dilemma. Income tax is progressive, so tax relief is inevitably regressive. The net effect is to nullify what is intended to be a progressive tax system.

It is time for a fundamental rethink of how we incentivise retirement saving, particularly given the nudge from the Budget that ISAs are the future. The Centre for Policy Studies will soon publish some proposals for a way forward, which includes sweeping away today’s tax relief framework.

Michael Johnson is a research fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies".

Friday, April 11, 2014

"Out of Order" Outward - UNISON protest against Poverty Pay

The picture collage is from this morning's lively and colourful protest by low paid UNISON carers who work for registered Charity "Outward" (Part of Newlon Group) in North and East London.

Over 400 workers are employed by Outward to provide care and support to over 1000 clients with severe learning disabilities, older people, young people leaving care, mental health and autism spectrum conditions. Some of whom need 24 hour care.

Many of Outward workers already earn less than a living wage and the charity is proposing to cut pay even lower and increase their working week.

Parents of clients attended the protest and spoke about their fears for the quality of service for their children if the pay of carers was reduced even more.

Apart from the absolute moral argument there is a clear business case for workers to be paid at least a living wage from improvements in quality of care, sickness levels, recruitment costs and training budgets. The reputational risk to Outward and Newlon from employing staff in London on poverty pay rates is also clear.

This morning was the last day of consultation on proposed cuts to pay and conditions. I hope that Outward will listen to their workers.

Check out today's National UNISON press release.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fob Off Amazon!

We’ve had an Amazon delivery!

"Hi John
After 4 months and over 59,000 signatures, Amazon has finally responded to the living wage petition that kickstarted Amazon Anonymous.
But Amazon is trying to fob us off. Click here to send an email telling them to try harder.
Amazon’s reply says that: "Permanent UK associates start at a minimum of £7.10 per hour increasing to a median of £8.00 per hour after 24 months…Additional benefits for permanent employees include private medical insurance, a company pension plan, life assurance, income protection and an employee discount."
Even ignoring the fact that £7.10 per hour is STILL under the UK living wage rate outside London, the real problem with this reply is the word “permanent”.
Amazon is trying to sidestep the small matter of tens of thousands of temporary contract workers to whom it pays poverty wages.
It’s simply not good enough.
Let’s show Amazon we’re not going to be fobbed off! Click below to tell Amazon's 'Employee Relations Department' what you think of their reply. We’ve included some template text but feel free to explain to Amazon in your own words:
Thanks for all your support,
Amazon Anonymous"

(just to say that there is alternatives to Amazon - recently I bought online a DVD series box set which was cheaper than Amazon. The only way consumers can change corporate behaviour is to boycott thieves such as Amazon. You cannot engage or persuade such large private pirate companies who get off by robbing their workers).

Monday, April 07, 2014

"Care & Support workers deserve a Fair Deal, says UNISON"

Check out our branch protest this Friday 11th April 2014, 9-10am at Outward, Newlon House, 4 Daneland Walk, Hale Village, London, N17 9FE. This has been picked up by Inside Housing. 

Press release "Low paid workers who care for some of north and east London’s most vulnerable people will be demonstrating to demand a fair deal over pay.

Over 400 workers are employed by Outward to provide care and support to people with severe learning disabilities and Autism Spectrum conditions. Most earn below the London Living Wage. Their employer is proposing to cut pay, extend the working week and implement a restructure which staff say will make services less viable.

UNISON members are lobbying their management to protest against the proposed cuts and to demand a Living Wage* for all staff.

UNISON Housing Associations Branch Caseworker Nazan Sen said: “Staff at Outward are being paid below the Living Wage and took a pay cut in the last restructure less than three years ago. They do a hard job, which is a lifeline for those they support.”

“If people are not paid enough to live on they will get a job elsewhere. This will have a direct effect on quality of care for very vulnerable people.”

“The London Living Wage is not an extravagance, it is simply the minimum necessary for a dignified life and the increasing numbers of employers who pay it recognise the benefits it offers in improving staff morale and retention.”

Support worker Donna Shannon said: “My job means a lot to me, I can see the difference I make every day, but I can’t afford to work for less.”

The lobby will take place on Friday 11th April, 9-10am, at Outward’s management offices in Tottenham Hale.

For more information contact Josephine Grahl, UNISON Housing Associations Branch Outreach worker, on 020 7697 4030/4033 or