Should there be a NEST for your nest-egg?

It says much for the resilience of the sort of consensual approach facilitated by the Pensions Commission of a decade ago that even before the government’s rash and irresponsible pensions freedom reforms have been implemented, opinion is coalescing around the best ways to ameliorate their likely...

Trade union solicitors launch Thompson Foundation to remember their founder

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti delivering the inaugural Thompson Foundation Lecture, March 2015

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti delivering the inaugural Thompson Foundation Lecture, March 2015

Thompsons Solicitors have launched The Thompson Foundation’ in memory of the firm’s founder.

The Thompson Foundation has been established to mark the retirement of David Thompson from the firm. It will be the first time in Thompsons’ 94 year history that no member of the Thompson family will be working for the firm, which was established by David’s grandfather W.H. Thompson.

Chief executive Stephen Cavalier said: “Since its foundation in 1921, Thompsons has been constant in its aim to be the leading legal adviser to the trade union and labour movement.

“We have established The Thompson Foundation to maintain the firm’s links with the Thompson family and to guarantee in perpetuity our unique constitutional commitment ‘to assist trade unions and their members and not to earn members the maximum income which, in general practice (including work for more affluent clients), they are capable of earning’.

“David is a close comrade and friend who has made a huge contribution to the firm’s development and success. His retirement marks an unprecedented milestone in our history and we are delighted that the Thompson Foundation will maintain his connection with the firm.”

David Thompson said: “I am proud that The Thompson Foundation will underpin the firm’s continued commitment to the trade union and labour movement, provide bursaries to support aspiring trade union lawyers and hold an annual lecture by an eminent figure on issues concerning trade unions.

“We are custodians of the great history of Thompsons and I am confident that the leadership of the firm will continue that tradition and ensure a successful future for the firm.”

The inaugural Thompson Foundation lecture was delivered by Shami Chakrabarti CBE, Director of Liberty, to an invited audience of distinguished guests at the TUC headquarters in London.

Ms Chakrabarti said: “In addition to forming Thompsons, W.H. Thompson was a founding member of the National Council for Civil Liberties. His vision of using the law to provide justice for working people lives on today in the work of David Thompson and that of the wider firm.

“I was proud to deliver the inaugural Thompson Foundation lecture and to join colleagues with shared values to pay tribute to David’s long career of fighting for injured workers and their families.”

Outrage as two union members sacked after raising grievances at work

Salford UniversityUCU members at the University of Salford are being balloted for strike action in protest at the sacking of two union members.

The two members, who had raised grievances against the university in the past, were placed on forced gardening leave the day before a new restructure was announced. Their contracts of employment were then terminated.

UCU said the treatment of the individuals, who work in the School of Marketing and Student Recruitment, flew in the face of agreed procedures on how the university should carry out redundancies.

The pair were not given the opportunity to be part of a redundancy selection pool, were not consulted on how their redundancies could be avoided and were not allowed to appeal against their job losses.

The union believes the employees may have been targeted as a result of their role in the union where one of them took the role of local representative. Despite axing both members of staff, apparently as a cost-cutting exercise, new posts have since been advertised internally in their department.

UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: “We are very concerned that the two members of staff who were sacked were also union members, and had raised concerns about a restructure at the university. We urge our members at the University of Salford to show support for their colleagues and send a clear message to the university that it cannot treat staff and their union reps in such a contemptuous manner.

“In the meantime we remain hopeful that talks to settle this dispute through conciliation experts ACAS will lead to an early settlement without the need for industrial or legal action.”

“If you want to win my vote, you must talk to me”

vote ballotThe Unite-backed NoVoteNoVoice bus today heads West in a bid to register voters before the General Election.

Some 7.5 million people across the UK stand to lose out on the vote that they are entitled to, but fears are growing that huge numbers of west country and Welsh voters will be among those unable to take part in May given the worrying decline in voter registration in these parts of the country.

To raise awareness of this risk, a registration roadshow is rolling westwards to seek out and register would-be voters. The NoVoteNoVoice double decker – powered by a Daily Mirror, HOPE note hate, Operation Black Vote, Operation Disabled Vote and Unite the union coalition – will target those groups where drop off rates are causing greatest concern – the young, those in rented housing and minority communities.

In Bristol, 5,641 voters have fallen off the roll but it is in Wales where the slide in voter numbers is particularly alarming. In Cardiff, some 23,500 voters have disappeared, with 14,000 of these in one constituency alone, the marginal seat of Cardiff Central. Along the coast in Swansea, over 10,000 voters have fallen off the electoral roll since 2014.

According to the NVNV team, patchy promotion of the change away from household and onto individual registration has caused voter numbers to plummet, which is why the eye-catching bus will be equipped with everything would-be voters need to get registered. Where people are uncertain about their status they can check that too using the unique VoteBooster technology that allows voters to check if they are on the roll there and then.

Nick Lowles of HOPE not hate said: “Elections are the life-blood of any democracy so it is a scandal that so many people cannot vote. The government’s own figures show that 8.5 million people – 17.7 per cent of all eligible voters – are not registered to vote. And what is worse is that it is those groups who most need a voice – the young, those on lower incomes and minority communities – who are worst affected.

“Giving people the chance to vote is absolutely essential and I would urge everyone to support the No Vote, No Voice campaign and start talking to their friends, families and neighbours about the importance of voting.”

Ros Wynne-Jones of the Daily Mirror said: “Politicians have been too relaxed about the registration changes being understood, but as we cannot wait for Westminster to wake up, we’re getting out there to talk to people about the value of voting.

“Simply registering sends a message to politicians. It says, if you want to win my vote then you must talk to me and listen to me. People may feel hacked off with political life in this country but our message is ‘don’t sit this out – your vote is your power, use it’.”

Ellen Clifford for Operation Disabled Vote said: “Disabled people remain one of the most marginalised and excluded groups in society and every day barriers to participation include exercising our democratic right to vote. On the road with the NVNV tour we’ll be talking to disabled people about how they can vote and the access standards they can expect at polling stations.

“If disabled people want politicians to prioritise the issues that matter most to us then we need to make disabled voter power really count.”

Anthony Curley national coordinator of Unite young members added: “The saying goes that ‘if you vote you get stuff, if you don’t you get stuffed’. There’s a worrying trend of young people not engaging with the political process, too many aren’t registering to vote – I fear that may become the habit of a lifetime.

“We need to mobilise the voting power of younger people, get them on that roll so that politicians of all parties think about our countries’ future, not just getting over the finishing line in May.”

The NVNV bus will stop at Bristol (today), Cardiff (tomorrow), Birmingham (8 March), Chester (9 March), Liverpool (10 March), Manchester (11 March), Calder Valley (12 March), Sheffield (13 March), Leeds (14 March) and Newcastle (15 March).

Councillor Report to West Ham Ward: March 2015

Councillor Report to West Ham Ward WEST HAM WARD LABOUR PARTY Ward meeting 5 March 2015 Thursday 5 February I attended Rebecca Cheetham Nursery School Governors meeting, then part of the West Ham ward meeting and finally my ward AGM at Forest Gate North. Saturday 7 February I went away...

EU’s Paris Protocol – time to bring citizens to the table

EU Environment Ministers meet on 6 March to discuss and probably sign off the EU’s contribution to the Paris climate change talks, December 2015. The next day marks the national Time to Act on Climate Change march in London. The EU Commission’s proposal, The Paris Protocol: a blueprint for tackling...

“I will never cease to be grateful to her, and those like her”

My mother needed homecare for the last few years of her life (she died in 2011 aged 96) and we paid £9 per half hour to the council for an am and a pm visit each day, to ensure she could wash and dress, had eaten and taken her medication. The care was outsourced to a private company.

One of the morning carers, Joan, was turned 70 herself, and helped mum wash, dress, then rushed round, loaded soiled sheets into the washing machine and hung them to dry the next morning, sorted out breakfast, supervised mum taking her meds and often prepared a sandwich for her lunch as well.

This outstanding, hardworking and very caring woman went more than the extra mile.

However because the evening visits were 6.00pm and mum didn't want to go to bed then, some of the evening carers used to just check she'd taken her meds and asked did she mind if they went on to their next visit, as they had so many more to get through, and some clients needed bathing and putting to bed.

Mum always felt sorry for them and said she didn't mind. Occasionally they were only there five minutes, or didn't turn up at all. Some of them had poor spoken English, and a ninety year old woman, hard of hearing, had a real problem with this.

There is no consistency, no standards adhered to and I suspect the pay is so poor, that the job doesn't attract many people who are prepared to work their socks off like Joan.

She found my mum very poorly one morning, after she hadn't been to bed at all, and she took care of her until the ambulance came.

Again, she did more than her brief, and I will never cease to be grateful to her, and those like her. They are thin on the ground.

Dirty Money fuels ‘Social Cleansing’

A DELEGATE to my local trades council was reporting last week how families in his part of the London Borough of Brent were being told they should move to another part of the country if they wanted...

End casino capitalism call

As taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland announces further job cuts, all while continuing to give its top brass millions in bonuses, the story reads much the same for another UK bank.

On Tuesday (March 3), Antony Jenkins, chief executive of Barclays bank, graciously accepted a bonus that takes his total pay to £5.5m, up from £1.6m last year – even as he presides over a regime that will axe almost 20,000 jobs and close hundreds of branches up and down the country.

To add insult to injury, Barclays, much like RBS, has set aside hundreds of millions to pay out in fines after being embroiled in a rate-fixing scandal in 2012.

In response to his jaw-dropping bonus, the chief executive Jenkins said, “I completely understand that I am very well remunerated for what I do.

“But,” he added, “I think it is appropriate that I accept my bonus.”

No one thought to ask him, however, how “appropriate” it is that more than 70,000 of the bank’s staff are paid £25,000 or less, while a handful earns more than £1m and five people earn more than £5m.

Jenkins defended himself by pointing to the drop in the bonus pool to £1.9bn, down almost a quarter from last year’s pool.

But even the bank itself admits that this fall in bonus payments can be partially attributed to separate allowances being handed out on top of salaries and bonuses – a deliberate attempt to circumvent EU bonus caps.

The news about Jenkins accepting his bonus comes as the Guardian reveals the extent of Barclays’ tax avoidance. In Luxembourg, the fat cats’ favourite tax haven, the bank generated £593m in profits, but employed only 30 people and paid just £4m in tax.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner condemned the shameless way in which banks’ bad behaviour continues despite their promises to reform year after year.

‘Steal candy, go to jail’

“If you steal candy from the shop, you can go to jail in this country,” he said. “But if you fleece billions from innocent people, while rewarding already overpaid suits and ties for what’s essentially criminal behaviour, you’re slapped with a negligible fine and all is forgotten.

“The only way casino capitalism will stop is if it’s made to,” he went on to say. “The banks will not get their house in order on their own. We need tougher banking regulation that has teeth.”

Labour has put forward specific banking reforms, some of which were outlined by shadow minister Cathy Jamieson during last week’s PMQs.

“Bonuses should be a reward for exceptional performance and not a compensation for failure,” she said. “Despite the scandals that have emerged over the past year, most recently HSBC, it looks like this year it looks like this round of bank bonuses will once again be very generous.

“Pay must be more closely aligned with long term performance so a Labour government will embark on a serious and far reaching programme of reform in the banking sector,” she added.

“We will reintroduce our successful tax on bankers’ bonuses which generated over £3bn in 2010. We will act to ensure this tax incorporates any attempts made by banks in an attempt to circumvent the EU bonus cap.”

Meanwhile – even as story after story emerges of banks continuing to operate in much the same way they did prior to the financial crisis – Cameron and the Tories have remained tellingly silent.



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Further Education budget: slashed by 24%

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) recently announced the 2015/16 funding settlement for adult skills in England. While funding for apprenticeships was largely protected, the adult further education (FE) budget is to be cut by 24%. This is an act of wilful vandalism against the principle of lifelong...

The time is now when it comes to housing

At a time of house price inflation, falling home ownership, more people privately renting and increased private rents, the recent English Housing Survey showed the proportion of people renting social housing remained steady at 17 per cent in 2013/14[1].  However, the number of people on local...

The Backward Logic of Privatisation

Public sector workers are not a cost to the economy; quite the contrary, they are producers of value Those that want to get rid of our Council imply that others can do it better, that there is...

Major job losses on the horizon

As UNITElive reported last week, the taxpayer-owned bank RBS announced that a major restructuring program was on the horizon but failed to give any details.

But two unnamed sources familiar with the matter revealed to the Financial Times March 3 that up to four out of five jobs in the bank’s investment division might be decimated, amounting to a total of 14,000 job losses.

While RBS refused to comment, the sources also noted that back-office systems would be overhauled to automate them.
The looming job cuts come as the bank has posted seven straight years of profit losses – £3.5bn in this year alone, taking total losses to £50bn since 2008, when the bank received a taxpayer-funded bailout to the tune of billions.

One-off items that were part of this year’s losses included £2.2bn in conduct and litigation charges, with £320m relating to foreign exchange markets rigging and an additional £400m covering compensation for the payment protection insurance scandal.

But it looks as though it is only workers who will be facing the consequences of the disgraceful behaviour of those at the top – banker bonuses at RBS are as healthy as ever, with £421m in bonus payments made this year.

RBS boss Rob McEwan told BBC Radio 4 last week that he cannot guarantee that similar scandals won’t happen again, while also defending this year’s bonus payments, saying the figure was lower than years before.

The news confirms Unite’s fears that the restructuring programme will entail significant job losses.

Commenting when the bank initially announced the programme, Unite national officer for RBS Rob MacGregor expressed deep concern about how the restructuring will “unfairly impact low paid and administration staff within the investment banking division.

“The announcement won’t leave the wealthy traders devastated and worried about how they pay their mortgages,” he said. “It will be the worker in the back office earning £20,000 per year who now faces uncertainty about what the future holds.”

Stay tuned on UNITElive for the latest on RBS job losses as more details are revealed.


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