Thursday, March 23, 2017

Fancy being a Newham Labour Councillor Candidate?

This should be an interesting introduction for local Party activists but I am worried that ordinary members may attend in the expectation that they will have at least a chance to be selected as a Labour candidate. I am concerned that there is simply not enough time for non active members to prove their campaigning commitment. Since selections are probably starting soon and candidates who cannot show a history of campaigning should not really be long listed.

This meeting should have been organised months ago to give people the chance to prove themselves. This is not the fault of our organiser but I assume it's down to our our Local Campaign Forum Executive.

"Dear Colleague,

Have you ever thought of becoming a councillor?  Newham Council goes to the polls on Thursday 3 May 2018 to elect a Mayor and 60 councillors – 3 in every ward in Newham. The Mayor and Councillors will serve for 4 years.
Many of our Labour priorities can only be delivered through local action. Labour’s core band of Councillors is the party’s frontline - a strong link with residents and local agencies. This is an exciting and challenging time to be a Labour Councillor.
We are looking for committed members with a minimum of 12 months continuous Labour Party membership who welcome the challenge of standing for election.

You will need a commitment to Labour’s aims, values and policies, and importantly, enthusiasm to be part of Newham Labour’s effective service delivery and relationship building team.

We are particularly keen to hear from women, young people and members of ethnic minority communities who would like to be considered.

To find out more please join us at our “Be a Councillor” Briefing.
Date:                    Saturday 1 April 2017,
Time:                   10am to 1pm
Venue:                 the Trinity Centre,
                              East Ave,
                              London E12 6SG.

Please register by Wednesday 29 March 2017 to be sure of a place

We look forward to seeing you.

Newham Borough Organiser

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

We are Londoners: We are One

I was supposed to have gone to the House of Commons this morning for a pension briefing but had to cancel due to a last minute clash. I also had a long telephone conversation at lunchtime with an MP who was driving into Parliament to vote. Many of my friends and colleagues were at work today inside or visiting Parliament.

While we don't know the full facts on what happened this afternoon it seems that some brainwashed moron had decided to deliberately murder innocent tourists and unarmed public servants.

Why this cretin thought that such cowardly murders would advance any cause is beyond belief.

To me there is no difference between the fascist who murdered Jo Cox MP or the one who tried to kill MPs today.

I think our first response to such vile acts is to state that while we are proud and passionate about our religious or secular beliefs, we are also all Londoners.We are democratic, tolerant and proud of our diversity and the rule of law.

I love the Facebook friend who lives in Newcastle who said today's outrage also "felt like her own family had been attacked".

The best response is that such an attack on London is actually an attack on all of us - and we should all respond accordingly by not only condemning but doing something practical and real against all such hate and bigotry.
(hat tip photo Dave Hill).

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

UNISON London Housing Association Branch AGM 2017: Secretary's Report

Today is the AGM of my branch (12-2pm and 6-8pm at the UNISON Centre, London) and this is my contribution to our annual report. Picture of 2016 Branch Executive. 

"2016 was a traumatic year for politics generally and for social housing and trade unions in particular. Attacks by the Conservative government on trade unions were seen off in part by united and targeted campaigning and protests.

The attempt to end social housing by withdrawing all grants for social rent, the introduction of the tenants “pay to stay” tax and the attempt to make “right to buy” in our sector compulsory has also so far failed even though we can expect the Government will come back again for the kill.

The branch must be prepared to continue to lobby and campaign against the implementation of the Housing Act and the proposals outlined in the recent Housing White Paper to make cuts to benefit for care and supporting housing projects and schemes.

The housing association world has experienced rapid change following the rise of the “mega mergers”. Huge existing associations are merging with each over to form even bigger
groups. While some mergers have failed due to “cultural differences” others have gone ahead with more likely to follow. Staff (and residents) can expect challenges ahead and while not all change is bad it will be important that we build strong unionised workplaces to stand up for our members.

While I find it somewhat ironic that one of the justifications given at the time for stock transfers from councils to housing associations used to be that council housing departments were too large and remote. The new mega housing associations are, however, promising to build tens of thousands of much needed new homes.

Our members will be developing, letting, selling, allocating, managing and maintaining these new homes. Our jobs and our future terms and conditions is dependent on making new and old employers successful and effective. No organisation will be successful if they don’t have good relationships with staff and their union. Our UNISON branch wants to work in partnership with our employers whenever possible but we will take on the small minority of bad employers who don’t want to work with us.

Finally, may I thank all our stewards and workplace contacts for the magnificent and often unappreciated work you do for members. You are the first line of defence for members and are our unsung heroes.

John Gray
Branch secretary"

Monday, March 20, 2017

Canning Town South Labour doorstep 11 March 2017

This college is from Saturday 11 March when West Ham Labour Party activists came to support the local Party in Canning Town South ward. Our MP Lyn Brown was there and we all knocked on doors in the ward asking if they had any issues that they wanted to discuss with their MP or local Councillors.

The response was on the whole very positive. By coincidence council contractors were marking the car parking bays in the area for the introduction of a new controlled parking zone. Some residents were genuinely worried about this but the vast majority realised that this had to be done to stop the area being turned into a car park for commuters.

The only other apparent  issue is that many of the houses in our canvass area are owned by a private landlord who is apparently trying to "encourage" residents who have controlled rents to move to other accommodation. We did not pick this issue up in the doorknock but local Councillors are aware and will be investigating.

Also that day there was a Labour canvass in Custom House (see photo in collage on bottom left).

Afterwards a number of canvassers from different parts of the CLP met up for coffee, cake and gossip (top left)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"Union reps are good for workers and employers and we can prove it"

Check out TUC risks and link to Stronger Unions response to the latest nonsense from the Tax evaders alliance.

"The TUC has ripped apart the latest attempt by a right-wing lobby group to claim paid release for union reps comes at a cost. TUC national organiser Carl Roper said the annually regurgitated claim by the Taxpayers’ Alliance that union volunteers are a drain on the public purse and taxpayers gets picked up uncritically by sections of the media, despite the irrefutable evidence proving precisely the opposite. 

Writing in the TUC’s Stronger Unions blog, he points to research and government publications showing the union role in the workplace is good for business, the economy and the health of workers. He says this establishes five areas that benefit from the activity of workplace union reps: skills and training; exit rates, labour turnover and dispute resolution; productivity, and worker safety. He said in workplaces where there is direct trade union health and safety representation there were much lower injury rates, translating to between 34,000 and 52,000 fewer working days lost. 

“There are just 170,000 union representatives in the UK amongst a workforce of around 25 million. It would be difficult to find another group of employees who in addition to carrying out their regular job make such a significant contribution to the UK economy as a result of volunteer activity,” Roper concluded. 

“It is a role acknowledged and valued not just by unions and their members, but also by some of the UK’s biggest and most successful employers. Jaguar Land Rover, British Aerospace, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, British Airways, Morrison’s, Asda to name just a few all have and provide paid time off to union reps. Their contribution is also acknowledged by the CBI. The case for union reps and the small amount of paid time off that they receive is conclusive.”

Ÿ TUC Stronger Unions blog. TUC guide to the union safety effect. The Guardian.

One Housing Group raises rents for Newham key workers by 40%

Tomorrow I will be attending this public meeting in the evening to discuss One Housing Group plan to impose new tenancy agreements and massive rent rises on a number of "key worker" tenants in Manor Road, E15.

These "key workers" are employed by local schools, NHS hospitals and social care organisations and live in a housing block that was transferred to the Housing Association (then called Toynbee) by Newham Council in 1997.

I have written to the Council asking it for any information regarding the transfer and to One Housing Group asking them for why they are making these changes and also asking them to stop the rent rises until at least they meet with their tenants, explain what they are doing and understand the harm that they will be causing.

I have spoken to tenants who have lived in the block since 1997 and will not be able to afford to pay the new rents and will be forced to move out of their flat and possibly move out of London.

Due to rocketing London rents many public service employers are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit staff and the last thing that we need in Newham is for experienced and skilled public servants to be forced to leave their jobs and homes.

One Housing Group have acknowledged my request and I have been told that I will receive a full response "in due course"

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Greater London UNISON Labour link Regional Forum 2017 (and Eastern Region)

Pictures from recent Regional Labour Link Forum in central London.  Labour Link is the UNISON political vote that supports the Labour Party.  I chaired the meeting and after opening remarks, introductions, workplan, financial report (don't ask) we moved on to motions.

My branch had submitted a motion on building a new national consensus on why we need to build affordable and decent homes for all. This motion was moved by our ace branch officer, Mitsy Harmon-Russell, and after some minor amendments on restrictions on rent levels (which were accepted by our branch with qualifications about how the motion was about building a national consensus and not just a wish list) was accepted unanimously. Another motion submitted by Lambeth branch on "Labour is the Party of the the NHS" was also passed overwhelmingly.

The meeting was then joined by UNISON Eastern Region Labour Link, who also had their annual forum next door. Tracey Grant and I co-chaired the rest of the meeting. We were joined by our guest speakers, National UNISON Labour Link secretary Keith Birch, Daniel Zeichner MP and Chuka Umunna MP (to give a joint Parliamentary report).

Keith talked about the continued threat from the Tory trade union bill which was designed not only to to attack unions but also to starve the Labour Party of funds.

Daniel is a well respected former UNISON Labour link national official who was elected for the first time as MP for Cambridge in 2015. He is now shadow Labour minister for buses and is their most energetic supporter.  He pointed out that nationally more people in this country rely on buses for their transport needs than trains. This fact is rarely mentioned during the often wall-to-wall media coverage about commuter railway problems in the South East of England.

Chuka is the MP for Streatham, London and a former shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. He gave a powerful speech on how he believes we can still win the next General election and also the hypocrisy of the other opposition parties who are attacking Labour for accepting the democratic decision of the electorate over Brexit when before the referendum they were attacking Labour for opposing having a referendum in the first place.

In the Q&A Chuka was challenged by delegates concerned by the actions of the Parliamentary Labour Party towards our leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Chuka accepted that this was a fair criticism of the PLP before the outcome of the second leadership election but since then it is now accepted that Jeremy is the leader and should be supported. However, that does not mean that there should be no criticism of those who advise him. He pointed out that The Times had leaked before the recent budget that the Tories would be breaking a manifesto promise by raising National Insurance for the self employed but this was not written into Jeremy's speech on budget day and was a lost opportunity to attack the Tories.

The forum ended on what I thought to be a positive and constructive note. The Labour movement family is like all families. At times fractious and argumentative, with all sides convinced they are right and have been wronged but we must all put this aside since we share a common enemy and a common solution. The Tories are our enemy and our common goal is the election of a Labour Government. If we unite, it is still possible and we can still do it.

Friday, March 17, 2017

West Ham Labour Campaigning tomorrow - Keir Hardie Methodist Church & Stratford

Picture from last weekend's post canvass coffee with Lyn Brown MP. There is also a canvass in Forest Gate North on Wednesday evening 22 March. 

"Sorry for short notice but below are our canvassing sessions for this weekend. All members very welcome to come along and help us talk to residents - don't worry if you've not come before - someone will help you.

Saturday 18 March
  • 11am Kier Hardie Methodist Church, 14 Plymouth Road, E16 1QB 
  • 11.30am outside Sainsburys, corner Romford/Carnarvon Rd, E15 4JF
Sunday 19 March
  • 11am Kier Hardie Methodist Church, 14 Plymouth Road, E16 1QB
  • 11.30am corner Romford Rd/Water Lane, E15 4LU
And don't forget our Fundraising Dinner with Brexit speaker - Keir Starmer MP
When: 7pm for 7.30pm, Thursday 30 March
Where: East London Rugby Club, 71 Holland Road, E15 3BP (5 min walk from West Ham stn)
Tickets: £25 per person (friends/partners very welcome). Please get your ticket via PayPal (to send us money use email address and remember to add the names of who the ticket(s) are for in the notes and any other info). 
Best wishes

Julianne Marriott
Vice Chair West Ham Labour Party (campaigns and comms)"  @westhamlabour  f westhamlabour  w

Thursday, March 16, 2017

STRONGERUNISON - NEC elections 11 April - 28 April 2017

Reminder that UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) Elections are due to start soon. Ballot papers should be sent out on 11 April.

I am going to vote for UNISON members who support the combined left & centre left STRONGERUNISON slate of candidates.

I am also standing for re-election as one of the two UNISON Community NEC members (Housing Associations and voluntary organisations).

Will post further information later.  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Newham mayor ‘trigger ballot’: GMB union says it followed the rules as it affiliates more branches locally

Check out former Guardian journalist, Dave Hill's website "OnLondon" about the latest twist in the Newham Mayoral Trigger saga. Leaving aside this important issue for the moment, what is happening with excessive trade union affiliation to local Labour Party's is a national issue which in my view threatens to completely destroy members democracy in the Party.

For whatever reason the GMB has recently decided to affiliate 26 branches to West Ham Labour Party. I understand that a similar number of GMB branches was also affiliated to East Ham.

What this will mean that it will be pointless for any local Labour Party wards or Branch to vote in future MP or other Trigger ballots since they will be completely outvoted. In West Ham there is only 10 branches. They will be completely swamped by the 26 GMB branches or maybe Unite or another union might affiliate say 50 branches? It only costs £6 for a trade union to affiliate each branch.

Also, it will be a complete waste of time in most Local Labour Parties for its members to turn up to its Annual General Meetings since they will be outvoted by trade union affiliates. This happened recently in the East Ham Labour Party AGM, when all positions and nominations were decided purely by GMB delegates.

I am strongly in favour of trade unions being involved in the Party but this makes us look at best ridiculous. The Labour Party is already in a mess and unless this issue is sorted it could even finish it off and destroy us.

This is a Labour Party issue and the party needs to urgently review its rules on affiliations.

"A London GMB official has explained why he believes his union followed correct procedures in the Labour Party process that led to the selection of Sir Robin Wales to seek a fifth term as Newham Mayor but which 47 party members in the borough have claimed contained many “procedural irregularities” that “made a material difference to the result”.

Gary Doolan, a GMB political officer, says his union was fully entitled to its four votes in the affirmative nomination or “trigger ballot” process, all of which backed Sir Robin going forward unopposed as Labour’s mayoral candidate for 2018, and that he suspects the challenge to it is largely the product of “old political battles” and “twitchiness” arising from local political circumstances. Sir Robin won the ballot, conducted between 25 October and 4 December last year, by 20 votes to 17.

In a sometimes strongly-worded letter sent to Labour’s governing national executive committee (NEC) in January, the 47 complainants listed three alleged “major failings” in in process, including the fact that some affiliated unions, the GMB among them, cast votes for each of their branches affiliated to Labour locally while others cast only a single vote no matter how many of their branches had affiliated.

They stated that “it is not our purpose, in general, to question the internal affairs of affiliates” but asserted: “It cannot be right that the NEC accepts this stark variation in practice within the franchise of the process,” which they attributed to “a different interpretation of the rules” brought about by “unclear” procedural guidance. The NEC declined their request for an inquiry to be held into the running of the process and some votes to be declared void or held in abeyance pending its outcome.

Doolan said his union correctly followed its own rules relating to all trigger ballot processes, which sitting MPs too must undergo. These include votes to which branches of the union become entitled when they affiliate to Labour CLPs being cast on their behalf by the London region rather than by the individual branches themselves.

Another locally-affiliated organisation, Newham Fabians, have been informed by the Fabians at national level that their procedure for deciding how to vote in the ballot breached the society’s own rules. The union Bectu, which had a branch affiliated in Newham at the time of the ballot (but which has since disaffiliated from Labour altogether), has said that no affiliation fee was paid in 2016.

Both Newham Fabians and the Bectu branch voted “yes” to Sir Robin going forward automatically. It is understood that the 47 complainants, who are drawn from both of Newham’s CLPs, West Ham and East Ham, are awaiting legal advice before deciding on their next move.

In January, the GMB increased the number of its London branches affiliated to Labour in Newham by more than 20 as part of what Doolan says is a new political strategy for increasing working class participation in grassroots politics across the capital and wholly unconnected to the dispute over the trigger ballot process. He wrote to West Ham CLP in mid-January listing 26 branches that wished to affiliate to it, enclosing a cheque for £156 to cover the required fees.

Many of the 26 branches are in workplaces outside Newham, including Barking, Bromley, Hendon, Woodford and the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, but Labour Party rules permit branches to affiliate to CLPs if a member of it is also party member who is “resident or registered as an elector within the constituency”.

The trigger ballot process allowed each of Labour’s 20 wards in Newham a single vote and 17 in all for affiliates. Two others unions cast more than one vote and four cast only one. Of the 20 wards, 9 voted “yes”to Sir Robin going forward automatically with 11 preferring the alternative, an open selection battle in which other hopefuls could have contested him for the nomination. The affiliates, comprising unions and other organisations, voted “yes” by 11 to 6.

The complainants’ letter to the NEC argued that “if trade union affiliates are allowed more than one vote, it presents a situation where trade union affiliates are able to affiliate as many branches as they want to any CLP, thereby completely out-voting party branches and the democratic expression of branch members’ wishes”.