Author Archives: Camden UNISON

Forthcoming Events

Branch elections and AGM

Branch elections for all steward and branch officer posts are scheduled each year. The timetable for standing and details of the available posts will be included in an email to members from Camden Unison next week (and there will be emails specifically about the elections too) but please to think about how you can be involved, or if you’re interested in standing for any of the roles and want to find out more about them. Any union branch is only strong and able to make a difference because of members being involved, so we’re always keen to increase our numbers of stewards and officers – it really does make a difference.

We also have an annual general meeting each year, and again there will be lots more information about it in future email, but it’s the afternoon of Weds 3 March 2021. We will be asking for time off to attend as usual, and are making provisions for it to be either online, in real life or a combination of the two, depending on circumstances. Please put the date in your diary now though so that you can come along.

 

Camden Black Workers Group AGM 3-5pm, Thurs 26 Nov Teams

Camden Black Workers Group Annual General Meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday 26 November 2020 from 3.00 – 5.00 pm. Time off has been agreed by management. Managers have been notified to release members but please give your manager enough notice so that you can be released to attend this very important meeting.

Guest speakers include Jenny Rowlands (Chief Executive), Hanad Mohammed (Director of Equalities and Disproportionality) and Diane Abbott MP (Former Shadow Home Secretary). No registration is required and the meeting is open to members of the group and other Black and minority ethnic staff.

Come along to contribute to the discussion and share your view on the items on the agenda and more. You can also find out more about the group at the meeting.

 

There’s still a climate emergency!

The coronavirus pandemic has meant that the climate emergency has not dominated the news in the same way as it did last year, but the threat to our planet has not gone away. We wrote last year about the planned events in Glasgow for the COP26 talks (when world leaders meet to discuss climate change and what actions need to be taken) but COP26 is now pushed back to Nov/Dec 2021. However, the COP26 Coalition who have been organising an alternative conference and activities have gone online, and over the next few days there are loads of meetings and debates that you can register for and take part in. Details and a full timetable are in the link below and there are some really interesting ones so do take a look and go along if you can.

https://cop26coalition.org/

 

 

Black British Rebels 1pm, Tues 8 Dec Teams

As a trade union, we want to know all about our rebellious history! Quite often this is a hidden history, and that’s even more so for Black rebels, so Camden UNISON is holding a lunchtime online meeting on Black British Rebels 1pm on Tuesday 8 Dec. The speaker, Hassan Mahamdallie, has written a book on the subject so make a note of the details and come along with your questions and points of view.

Don’t let the Tories steal our pensions!

The government has put a cap on the amount you can get if you are made redundant at very short notice and with no meaningful consultation. Most people effected by this will be those who are made redundant who are over the age of 55. It will come into force on 4 November and means from then on, severance packages will not exceed a maximum of £95,000 in value. Although that can seem like a lot, it includes:

 

  • Statutory Redundancy Pay
  • Discretionary Severance Pay
  • Pension strain costs (see below)

 

Pension strain costs

 

Under current regulations a member made redundant or retired on the grounds of efficiency over the age of 55 has to take the pension they have earned in their current LGPS service immediately at the point of redundancy (including any previous LGPS service that a member has combined with the current service). This pension is not reduced by an early retirement factor for early payment as it would be if it was the member retiring voluntarily. The LGPS employer then must pay their LGPS fund the cost of removing the early retirement reduction. The cost is based on the member drawing their pension from their normal pension age. If they draw their pension before their normal retirement age, they are receiving their pension for longer. Depending on how early this can be very expensive and put a strain on the LGPS fund if not paid for. That is why the employer is asked to pay the fund for this cost. This is called the strain cost.

 

So how will this affect the £95,000 cap?

 

This strain cost that the employer pays will be included in the £95,000 exit cap. The cap will also include statutory redundancy pay and any other severance payments.

This means that even some low and medium paid staff may hit the cap if they have more than 30 years’ service and made redundant in their mid to late 50’s.

 

UNISON has consistently and strongly opposed all the above changes since they were first proposed in 2015 and will continue to do so through any means available.

UNISON is responding to the MHCLG consultation arguing that severance should not be eroded and is completely opposed to offsetting the severance payments, including Statutory Redundancy Pay, against payments to remove reductions for pensions for those over 55. This is penal and potentially discriminatory.

 

What can you do?

 

In recent email to members, we have attached letters for you to send in as part of the consultation – please do this as soon as possible. And please keep an eye on any further information we send to you in emails.

UNISON General Secretary election voting starts now

Every 5 years, all UNISON members (including retired members) have the chance to vote for our general secretary. This will be a vote by postal ballot, and you will receive the ballot paper to the address you have given UNISON. Ballot papers start going out on 28 October, so you should expect yours within the next few days. The mailing will include a covering letter, and booklet with each candidate’s election address and a list of the bodies that have nominated them, a ballot paper and a return envelope. As ever, please read all the election statements before voting.

A branch cannot tell members who they should vote for. However, all branches can nominate a candidate at a decision-making meeting of the branch, and at our branch committee meeting the decision was to nominate Hugo Pierre, and below is why:

As UNISON members, we are about to elect a new General Secretary. Our Branch decided to nominate Hugo Pierre as a candidate to stand in this election because Hugo wants our union to change into a fighting, democratic trade union prepared to meet the challenges we face as members:
• National Action to fight Council cuts
• National Action for NHS pay – 15% now
• £15 an hour minimum wage
• End privatisation and bring services back in-house
• Labour Councils to set no cuts budgets
• Election of Assistant General Secretaries and Regional Secretaries
• Build our workplace strength
• Branches have full right to campaign

If you have not received your ballot paper by 10 November, you must call UNISON Direct on 0800 0857 857 to request a replacement (have your membership number to hand if possible).

Voting in the election continues until Friday 27 November.

Tory School Meal Scandal

 
News over the last few days has been dominated by the vote in the House of Commons to deny help for children who usually get free school meals over this half-term and Christmas. This is a real disgrace – the 322 Tory MPs who voted against free school meals being extended have a basic parliamentary income of over £26m (also more than the total COVID-relief given to Greater Manchester). And of course they also claim thousands in expenses – Matt Hancock claimed over £60k last year – and have all their meals at the Commons subsidised by us. The huge response by ordinary people to make sure no child goes hungry is amazing, but shouldn’t be needed in one of the richest countries in the world.
 
However, we know that some of our members and their children will be affected by this, so please see below for a link where children and young people who are entitled to free school meals can go this week:
 
https://helpoutwhenschoolsout.co.uk
 
And here’s the links to a couple of petitions you may want to spend a few minutes signing. The first is by Marcus Rashford calling for the government to provide free school meals in the holidays, and the second is calling for an end to MPs subsidised meals:
 
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/554276
 
https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-mps-entitlement-to-free-work-meals

SOAS UNISON victory

 

One of our neighbouring UNISON branches at SOAS (part of London University) has been campaigning against management plans to make almost 90 members of staff redundant at the end of this month, including cleaners, catering staff, admin and library workers.

 

At the Camden UNISON branch committee meeting in September, we agreed to support their planned strike action against the compulsory redundancies. However, as they were about to start striking, management asked to meet with the UNISON branch. At the meeting, management withdrew the threat of compulsory redundancies.

 

This is great news for a branch that was one of the first to support our traffic wardens when they were on strike both with donations and by visiting their picket lines. We were really pleased to be able to send a message of support and our Branch Secretary, Liz Wheatley, spoke at their online victory rally.

In the coming weeks, SOAS UNISON will be launching a new Fair Workload campaign to ensure that all SOAS staff have manageable workloads and are appropriately paid for the duties they perform in the new structure.

 

Camden UNISON celebrates Black History Month

Unison along with CBWG have long campaigned to oppose racism in all of its forms. We have been working together to improve real equality in our workplace, challenge discrimination, work to combat institutional and individual racism and to provide solidarity and support for all Black workers and communities in Camden. One way of doing this is the annual celebration of Black History Month (which is becoming Black History Season this year in Camden)

 

We welcome the decision of Camden Council to have a Black History Season and to pay greater attention to issues of racial inequality. This has been possible because of the work of generations of campaigners in raising awareness of racial injustice – most recently the upsurge of protests that followed the killing of George Floyd in the US. Camden Unison and CBWG have been pressing for the Council to act on equalities issues and to support BHM and it is good that they are committing to do so. Over the years, the Black Workers Group have worked jointly with Camden Unison and Camden Council on a range of initiatives during the Black History month. We welcome the measures being proposed to make the organisation more inclusive and less discriminatory. Despite the disappointments of the past, we have to keep campaigning until we get real change – we owe that to previous anti-racist campaigners and we owe it to future generations.

 

People from minority ethnic communities are disproportionately impacted by many issues in society including; unemployment, dangerous conditions of front-line work, pay disparities, becoming unemployed during this Covid pandemic, issues of poor housing, problems in the education system, certain health conditions (including Covid-19), negative media portrayals, poor treatment by the police, immigration services, and the criminal justice system but many Black Heroes have contributed so much to society in the past and are still doing so – and they all need to be acknowledged and celebrated for their contributions during the Black History season.

 

Carter G. Woodson, the individual who created what was originally known as Negro History Week in Washington, D.C., in February 1926. was the second Black American to receive a PhD in history from Harvard—followed by W.E.B. Du Bois a few years later. His vision for Black history as a means of transformation and change is still quite relevant and quite useful. The chains of slavery are gone—but we are all not yet free. The great diversity within the Black community needs the glue of the past to remind us of not just how far we have travelled but, how far there is to go.

 

Knowing the past opens the door to the future, the continuing importance of Black History Month ensures that we are taking the appropriate steps to safeguard the preservation of Black History.

 

Woodson believed that his role was to use Black history and culture as a weapon in the struggle for racial uplift. Black history is still a vehicle for change and racial uplift today. Black and White are engaged in Black culture through music and television. It is therefore important to ensure that all communities be exposed to Black history because experiencing Black History Month every year reminds us that history is not dead or distant from our lives.

 

We should embrace all that makes us stronger and rebuke all that seeks to divide us. Martin Luther King Junior said in the context of many Americans not standing up against discrimination of Black people and their civil rights. “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”

 

Let us all join in the cultural consciousness raising and mobilisation rolled together that is Black History Month.

 

CBWG online meeting Thursday 24th September

The last CBWG online meeting took place on Thursday 24th September @ 3pm, at which Dawn Butler MP, Former Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities was the Special Guest speaker. The theme of the event was “Why and how Black Lives Matter is important to me”. Information on the meeting can be seen on Essentials here:

 

https://lbcamden.sharepoint.com/sites/intranet/communications/Pages/camden-black-workers-group-general-meeting-24-september-2020.aspx

 

The meeting could have been joined online via this link:

 

Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

 

 

‘Jare Oyewole
Camden Unison

We must challenge racist activities

 

 

SOCIAL media has had reports of members and supporters of Britain First, a far right organisation founded by former BNP members, going to a hotel in Camden where homeless people are now being accommodated to keep them safe from coronavirus and try to set them on the road to permanent housing.

They turned up at the hotel with the mistaken belief that it was being used to house asylum seekers.

As a trade union Camden Unison has long campaigned against fascism and racism.

The recent Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted racism in society and we fully support that movement, campaigning for an end to institutional racism as well as challenging racist activities.

Organisations like Britain First try to capitalise on the scapegoating climate created by politicians like Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.

These politicians spend their time trying to persuade us to blame Black or Muslim people for the problems in society from unemployment to homelessness rather than blaming them, the real creators of austerity.

Had the hotel housed asylum seekers and refugees, our response would be that they are welcome here.

People do not flee their homes, putting their lives at risk in the hands of traffickers, live in unsanitary conditions in camps or try to cross seas on flimsy boats unless they are desperate and need a chance to start a new life.

Seeking asylum is not illegal. The rich are able to move their millions around the globe so that they can make even more money, often at the expense of those seeking asylum, and live in tax havens to avoid contributing to the National Health Service or our schools.

Yet asylum seekers and refugees when given the opportunity are often the people who keep those valued parts of society afloat – where would our NHS be today without the contribution of migrant workers?

At a time when fascist organisations are trying to grow on the back of both the pandemic and the prospect of one of the deepest recessions in our lifetime, it’s important that we say asylum seekers and refugees are welcome here. Britain First and their like are not.

LIZ WHEATLEY Branch Secretary
PHOEBE WATKINS Branch Chair
and the following Camden UNISON Branch Officers:
KATHY ANIFOWOSE
ISRA FEISAL
PHIL LEWIS
CLAIRE MARRIOTT
CLAUDIO MUNZI
ADEJARE OYEWOLE
HUGO PIERRE
VINOTHAN SANGARAPILLAI
JACQUI WALLACE

Camden UNISON sending solidarity greetings to Tower Hamlets UNISON

 Camden UNISON sending solidarity greetings to Tower Hamlets UNISON on their strike against imposed changes to their contracts. It is particularly galling when the workers – many of them key workers were clapped for their work during the pandemic only to be “rewarded” with a slap of worse contracts and pay cuts

National Pay Consultation