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Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

The recent blog of Kitty S Jones, Labour Party activist and blogger, has left many of us rather shocked and dumbfounded by her lashing out at the Green Party. This is not new but simply stronger language than what Greens face routinely from Labour. Kitty S Jones claims that the Greens are somehow on the Malthusian Right because we point out the need for policies that allow us to live within our planetary resources and not cause hardship to the poorest, as will no doubt be the result of climate change and environmental degradation. She goes on to say that if the Greens were really green we would join Labour.

Labour still, shockingly, fails to recognise the social and environmental reality of climate change and the limits to what our planet can sustain. How long will it take Labour to accept this truth and stop its dishonest politics of pretending that it is taking climate change seriously? When will it address the social injustice that this failure will lead to? These are are just some of the reasons that Greens are not able to join Labour.

Still in thrall to the filthy rich?

Many Greens left the Labour Party for its failure to do anything significant to challenge the Thatcherite agenda and because it continued to entrench that system when in government: setting up academy schools outside the control of democratically elected bodies;  tendering parts of the NHS to private sector bidders; continuing with a tax regime that fails to redistribute wealth in our highly unequal society; allowing a free-for-all in the City; and tendering out prison and other services. (And that’s without mentioning the destructive Iraq war.) Labour seemed in thrall to the rich, the filthy rich that they were happy to hang out with and take money from. This was the Labour Party of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and, we must remember, Ed Miliband. However much we may hope for more from Ed, can we with our hands on hearts ever trust him?

Only the Greens have been willing to speak out about domination by the wealthy and big corporates – the Establishment as Owen Jones powerfully explains – and to develop alternative solutions. Labour’s mild scolding of its wealthy banker friends hardly caused a ripple. Only the Greens have argued for the break up of large companies, for state funding of political parties to diminish the political influence of the rich, firm regulation of banks, and to challenge the domination of a handful of media barons.

It’s clear that Labour are nervous. No doubt in their heart of hearts they know that they failed the people in their 13 years in government: failed to tackle the underlying inequality in power and wealth and the big issues that face the UK and the world. Perhaps it’s this guilt that hits them hard and leads to them lash out at the Greens, with their half truths and exaggerations. Jones returns to the old lies about the minority Green administration in Brighton Council and refuses to acknowledge that the Greens were trying their very best to fairly address an equal pay problem in the Council in the months before the strike.

If Labour really wanted change, they would attack the Tories not the Greens.  A stronger Left is needed if we are to make sustainable change, not the weaker Left that Labour seems to want.

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By Kirsten de Keyser
Political blogger and campaigner

On Tuesday 9 December the OECD, the west’s leading economic think tank, dismissed the concept of trickle-down economics as it found that the UK economy would have been more than 20% bigger had the gap between rich and poor not widened since the 1980s.

This is a staggering assertion and the report makes for required reading during these dark December evenings. Granted, the economically enlightened would already have guessed that stretching the inequality elastic to pinging point could not be healthy. But reducing the size of an entire economy by 20%? That’s calamitous, to be sure.

So how do we compare here in Camden? Acutely socially aware, borne out by a Labour controlled Council, a great hooray, a lot of back slapping and town hall flag hoisting went on back in October 2012. Green Party Councillor Maya de Souza had been one of the instigators of the Council’s commitment to pay all staff the London Living Wage and a justly proud Camden became one of London’s first boroughs to be accredited as a LLW Employer by the Living Wage Foundation.

And congratulations were certainly in order. Despite swingeing slashing of budgets across the board, Camden Council had somehow found a way to do the right thing; reducing the income inequality of its workers by lifting the lowest paid up to the London Living Wage.

‘Please can I have some more Sir?’
But despite all the 2012 fanfare and fireworks, it now transpires that the much trumpeted LLW commitment will not be fully met for another two years. The excuse is that the pay increase cannot be added into existing contracts, for legal or other administrative reasons. For example, Camden’s dinner ladies will not be paid a living wage until 2016 – four years after the pledge was made.

And that’s a disgrace. Camden Council should simply top up wages to meet the London Living Wage for all staff. If an organisation cannot pay its staff enough to live on, it should not be in business. Passing the buck to the DWP Tax Credit budget or the Housing Benefit department is not only immoral, it is incompetent.

The Green Party of England and Wales has called for the statutory minimum wage to be immediately lifted to Living Wage levels and for a £10 per hour minimum wage for all by 2020. And not a moment too soon.

Twitter: @kdkwifi
Blog: http://whatwouldborgendo.wordpress.com/
Project:NB https://paper.li/kdkwifi/1391956794

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In the second post of our series, Green Councillor Maya de Souza writes about the work that has gone into securing better conditions for council staff:

caroline_maya250

As residents will know, a Green Party slogan is ‘Fair is worth fighting for’. Green Councillors have pursued this cause with conviction. The key issues for us have been a living wage, not only for council staff but for the contracted-out as well. We asked through scrutiny committees and full council meetings for the living wage to be paid in the 2006-10 council.

The Tory-LibDem administration made a commitment to put all Camden directly employed staff on the living wage. But the Greens said this was not enough. The big issue was, continues to be, the outsourced staff, school catering and social care workers among others. Camden should not have a two-tier workforce.

We showed in our subsequent budget amendments that a living wage across the board could be financed. During the 2010-14 period we have continued to raise concerns about the exceptions that Labour were making, despite signing up as a Living Wage borough. They claimed it was too late in the contracting process to include the living wage in catering staff contracts and too expensive to pay social care workers a living wage! The Greens led a cross-party challenge and we’re pleased to say that in the end Labour made a commitment to pay care workers a living wage within two years. That’s still not good enough but it’s better than nothing.

Employment practice – Another aspect of fairness is non-discrimination in employment. This has been a major aim for me, given my experience, as an employment lawyer, on how discrimination materialises in day-to-day life. It’s not always deliberate, but often a result of stereotyping and poor procedures that allow too much subjectivity, as when managers choose people ‘like us’.

With the support of knowledgeable residents I’ve asked questions and sought to ensure proper monitoring. This involved looking at how agency staff is recruited for well-paid temporary employment posts and whether the Council discriminated against some groups of people in recruiting. It certainly looked as if this may have been the case. Monitoring helps to flag this up. I also sought to ensure good practice for retention and promotion of staff, leading a challenge in 2013 following a finding of race discrimination against Camden in an employment tribunal case.

Here, I worked with councillors from the other parties. I led discussions at the Scrutiny committee meeting, successfully arguing that for better procedures, training that sought to challenge stereotypes and preconceptions, as well as for better figures showing numbers at different grades. Mike Cooke, the Chief Executive, was among those to respond positively to these proposals.

More equal society – Greens have successfully argued in the Council for a maximum 10-one pay ratio for senior to junior staff. This is now accepted, but we argue that we should go further, leading by example in moving towards a more equal society. And we do query bonuses and, in particular performance related pay, which allows too much subjectivity to enter decision-making.

The evidence is also that higher paid workers benefit, as it is easier for them, unlike those in more routine jobs, to show high performance. We have also supported staff on disability rights issues, persuading the Cabinet member, Pat Callaghan, to sign up to the ‘Breaking the Stigma’ campaign for mental health sufferers.

Zero hours – More recently the big issue has become the use of zero hour contracts as a means of limiting Council obligations to staff. I’ve argued that we should not use them as an employer nor through outsourced contracts. The Labour administration has not given assurances on this front. Following tenacious questioning and many attempts at fobbing us off I was told that the Council did not in fact know whether they had anyone on zero hour contracts.

In terms of those on outsourced contracts, we’re pleased that the administration recognises the problem but do not accept that we must wait for the government to change the law.

It’s perfectly possible for Camden to require fair employment terms in its contracts with service providers. We will push them to do so. So, if you’d like Councillors who believe that fair play, decent working conditions and non-discrimination are fundamental and non-negotiable, do ensure you vote Green! Our Green team has the legal skills and campaigning experience to mount an effective challenge.

Maya de Souza
Camden, May 2014

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By Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader and Camden resident

A letter in last week’s Ham and High from Anton Harding on behalf of Royal Mail illustrates effectively how we don’t want this service to operate, as a business.

We don’t want something “flexible and fleet-of-foot”, that’s what’s given us a steadily diminishing number of deliveries in recent years, arriving later, all too often delivered by casual workers who understandably struggle in Camden with complicated layouts of council estates and ancient Zone 1 street layouts, where once a regular deliverer knew their own patch like the back of their hand.

Privatisation is a failed model. We know from the long trail of disasters, from G4S to A4E to Atos to Harmoni, that outsourcing our public services puts public funds straight into private profits, cuts the pay and condition of workers and reduces the quality of service to the public.

This is an essential public service just like our water supplies, electricity etc. And just like those, it is a natural monopoly – it’s clearly nonsensical for several different companies to make the same rounds of streets and boroughs every day.

We all know how badly privatising water, gas and electricity has worked out. Let’s not make the same mistake with the mail.

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by Natalie Bennett

There was an excellent turnout and a bouyant mood yesterday at a rally for the University of London cleaners who are campaigning for holiday and sick pay and pensions – following their victory last year in winnning the living wage.

Students, academics and fellow workers were backing the cleaners – as were representatives from the University of Sussex occupation, who made the link between privatisation and poor working conditions. Privatisation needs to be resisted, and the fact that organisations can’t wipe their hands of responsibility for workers’ conditions by outsourcing them were highlighted.

cleaners

I tweeted about my support for the campaign – and one response was “haven’t they already got sick and holiday pay and pensions?” – well exactly!

I spoke briefly at the rally as it marched around Senate House – incidentally as we stopped opposite the Briitish Museum back entrance. Chinese tourists there were taking photos – I don’t know what they made of it all!

You can show your support on Facebook and follow the campaign on Twitter.

And there are lots of excellent pictures from yesterday here and here.

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by Natalie Bennett

Defending traffic wardens, speaking up for them, is not always going to be a popular cause, but I’m proud that’s what Camden Green Party has been doing lately, including through letters to the local papers. Yesterday I was pleased to be able to speak at a Unison rally for them at the Town Hall marking the fact that they are now in the middle of a second strike for decent wages.

They’re currently receiving £8.09/hour for a 42.5-hour week – not even the London Living Wage – and certainly not enough for a tough, physical, stressful job in the midst of high-cost central London.

Inevitably, their role has been outsourced (by a Labour council some years ago), and they are employed by NSL (formerly part of NCP), a corporate giant that Unison reports is taking a fee of about £6 for each hour of work from the attendants (remember they’re getting just £8 for the same hour – although their compatriots in Waltham Forest are already getting £10/hour – what the Camden workers are demanding).

The long-term solution is clearly to bring these roles back “in-house” at the council – parking attendants are enforcing our democratically agreed rules for the good of all of us and should be subject to proper democratic oversight – but the contract has three years to run, and until that point, Camden council should be doing everything possible to get their contractor to pay a decent wage.

Here’s a video of what I said yesterday.

More videos from the rally can be found here.

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11am-1pm, Saturday 10th March
Starting from the People’s Supermarket, 72-78 Lamb’s Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 3LP

To mark Fairtrade Fortnight (27th Feb–11th Mar) there will be a Walk for Fairtrade through the borough of Camden on Saturday 10th March.

The theme of Fairtrade Fortnight is ‘Take a step for Fairtrade’. It can be a simple step, like swapping your tea or coffee at home to Fairtrade, or a bigger step, like hosting your own Fairtrade chocolate tasting party!

There’ll be a yummy Fairtrade Breakfast from 10am at The People’s Supermarket. Then the walk sets off at 11am, arriving at Thorntons Budgens in Belsize Park for a celebratory photo around 1pm.

Organisers ask if you let them know you’re planning to come along: camdenfairtrade@googlemail.com / 07815 771 939

There’s also a Debate:’ Does Fairtrade Really Work’ at 7pm, People’s Supermarket, 72-78 Lambs Conduit St, February 29.

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