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Archive for the ‘Social justice’ Category

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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mayabedroomtaxCamden Greens last night called for a debate tonight at Full Council on a motion urging  action by the Council to protest against the bedroom tax by making a clear statement that it won’t evict for this reason.

Cllr Maya de Souza went into the meeting still seeking a seconder for a motion that also called for further resistance to the government’s attack on the poor. Full details here.

This demand was supported by Camden United for Benefit Justice, with members presenting a passionate delegation to the meeting.

At the last minute, Cllr Rahel Bokth, a Lib Dem, agreed to second it.

But the Council did not get beyond first motion, so there was no a chance to debate it.

The Mayor,  Jonathan Simpson,  and Cabinet Member for Finance, Theo Blackwell, intimated that they would agree to debate and proper discussion of options through a scrutiny committee.

Greens will continue to push for a special Full Council meeting on welfare reform, but acknowledge  that an evidence-gathering session and debate through scrutiny would be a step forward.

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by Natalie Bennett

In a letter in the Ham & High of May 2, 2013, Mr Uys (Drivers faced with trolley jam) expresses eloquently the frustration of  Highgate High Street residents, workers and visitors with the thoroughly anti-social behaviour of the Tesco store there, but the problem is much wider than this one store.
Camden Green Party members talk regularly to residents near Tesco and Sainsbury stores in Kentish Town High Street, Fortess Road and Swain’s Lane, among others, who are plagued by trolleys blocking pavements, HGVs blocking roads, and noisy unloading at all hours of the day and night.
These supermarket chains are simply anti-social and abusive of the power of their size, and are being allowed to get away with behaviour that advantages them against their independent competitors – stores that are of far greater benefit to their local communities and provide far more jobs and business opportunities for suppliers.
Independent stores typically get deliveries by small vans, from a range of independent wholesalers and food manufacturers, and they have storerooms in which stock is held (on which they pay business rates).
By contrast the chains stock the stores straight from HGVs three or four times a day, using the public space of the pavement, and road, without any respect for the rights and needs of others.
When Camden Green Party had a pop-up shop in Fortess Road, the Sainsbury’s Local opposite regularly littered the highway with traffic cones, blocking off an HGV-sized space outside their store. They have no right to do that – only the arrogance of size and sense of entitlement that has infected far too many of our large companies, as demonstrated also by the way they continue to squeeze down staff wages, enforce casualisation on unwilling workers and employ unconsciounable zero-hours contracts.
The Green Party seeks on a national level to ensure that supermarkets pay the true social cost of their way of conducting business, or make major changes. On a local level, our councillors seek to ensure that noise abatement cases are brought by local authorities to address the nuisance that occurs.

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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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By Natalie Bennett

Yesterday, as every year on August 6, Tavistock Square became a solemn place, a sad place, but also a place of resolution, as London CND held its annual Hiroshima Day commemoration.

The resolve was to continue to fight against these hideous weapons, particularly against Britain’s nuclear weapons.

The high turnout, certainly the biggest I have seen, perhaps in part reflected the fact that the is a feeling that austerity, with all of its social horrors, might at least hold out new hopes of UK disarmament.

When even very traditionalist defence experts are calling for Britain to abandon nuclear weapons, if only on cost grounds, the political ground is certainly shifting.

There were two participants who held more memories than most people present.

The veteran peace campaigner Hetty Bower, aged 106, pictured in the crowd right, said: “We have got to grow up and stop killing each other.”

MP Tony Benn said nuclear weapons are no use, we can’t afford them, and they not really independent of US. “We must get rid of them.”

 

Green MEP Jean Lambert,  pictured right, highlighted the almost casual acceptance of India’s nuclear weapons (with real politic proponents saying “we need a bulwark against China), contrasting it with the view of Pakistan.

She said that existing weapons states need to break the stalemate on non-proliferation. It was time we put down bombs and worked for peace, she said.

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by Natalie Bennett

We had at our members’ meeting this week a great speaker from Frack-Off, the fast-growing campaign against “extreme energy”. They’re best-known for their work, as the name suggests, against fracking – yes that strange and destructive method of shale gas extraction that caused an earthquake in Blackpool, but also covering a whole range of other, possibly even worse, technologies, ranging from coal-bed methane and underground coal gasification (effectively setting fire to coal underground) –  and also including tar sands, mountain top removal and deep water drilling (of the type for which the UK has just provided a $1bn line-of-credit to the Brazilian state oil company).

This map shows the sites where activity is under way or with licences likely to be let  in the UK, but a map supplied on the night shows how a majority of the UK is under threat (the “under review” areas are where licences are being considered) ….


(Map by Paul Mobbs)

We did an interesting, if depressing, exercise, trying to rank the most significant negative impacts of fracking. These ranged from climate change to methane, heavy metals and other contaminants in underground water, to the industrialisation of the countryside and an average of 30,000 lorry movements for each well.

There is, however, a strong fightback going on, with Frack-Off providing help and support to strong local groups – and some of those who have been fighting back are now on trial (Follow #frackingontrial  on Twitter for the latest on that.) It’s pleasing to know that Caroline Lucas has made representations to the trial, saying non-violent protest should not be criminalised.

(more…)

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