Saturday, 28 July 2012

Disabled workers strike over closure of Haringey Remploy factory

Disabled workers in Haringey joined a 24-hour nationwide strike last week to protest against government plans to close a string of factories and throw thousands out of work.

Workers from the Remploy factory in Hermitage Road, South Tottenham brandished protest banners outside the premises during industrial action last Thursday.

Strikes took place at all 54 Remploy factories in the UK after employees voted for industrial action in ballots carried out by the GMB and Unite unions.

Strike action was called following the government’s decision earlier this month to close 27 Remploy factories, including the Haringey site, by the end of the year, leading to the loss of 1,700 jobs in total.

Phil Davies, GMB national secretary, said: “Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith is systematically destroying lives by his hard-hearted actions. We will continue our campaign by all means at our disposal.”

Under the plans, a further nine factories face an uncertain future and the remaining 18 sites across the country are due to close or be sold off next year.

Another 24-hour strike by Remploy workers in protest at the closures is due today.

Remploy was set up in 1945 to employ wounded soldiers. The business still provides jobs for disabled workers today.

A version of this article was first published at The Hornsey Journal.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

London Olympics 2012 - A Rogues' Gallery of Sponsors

We were promised the greenest most ethical Olympics ever. A look at the list of international sponsors showed that this would be an impossible dream. And despite all the belief in the great god of "the market" they still get exclusive rights in an area where we have also been responsible for part of the funding through our Council tax. Then Dow "Bhopal" Chemicals and Lloyds Bank, a suspect in the Libor rate fixing scam were added as local sponsors.

It was promised that jobs on the site would be given to local people. The Olympic Delivery Authority has argued that as this promise was made by the bidding group, which is an entirely separate organisation, they were not bound by it.

It was argued that it will increase participation in sport yet they concreted over a large part of the greatest area of public football pitches in the world. They say they will restore it afterwards but will the funding to do this be available and you can safely bet some developer has his eye on it.
There are still displaced small businesses that are waiting for their compensation but that pot of money has been completely used up.

However, Olympic lanes or no Olympic lanes, next Friday is the last Friday on the month and Critical Mass is still going ahead - after all it has been happening on the last Friday of the month since long before Britain decided to bid for the games.

On Saturday there is a demonstration against the corporate Olympics assembling in Mile end Park at 12 noon, marching to Victoria Park where there will be "People's games for all". The news is that Tower Hamlets council has withdrawn permission for this demo but it is still going ahead.

Written by Peter Budge, Haringey Green Green Party

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Tottenham Community Rallies to Save Historic Market

On Thursday 26th July the Wards Corner Community Coalition (WCC) launches their exciting community-led plan to regenerate Seven Sisters indoor market in a further show of defiance against Haringey Council and developer Grainger PLC's plans to demolish this much loved community asset.

The Wards Corner market building has been an icon of Seven Sisters since it first opened for business in the early 1900s. The elegant, steel-frame, red-brick structure housed Wards Furnishing Stores, a classic London department store, until it closed in 1972.

Today Wards Corner is the home of a diverse and bustling local market, including London's most vibrant cluster of Latin-American traders.

Dark Clouds over Wards Corner

On 25th June 2012, after years of controversy and community outcry, Haringey Council backed with a 5-4 vote a plan led by one of the UK's biggest landlords, Grainger PLC, to demolish the building and replace it with a residential and commercial development which would be prohibitively expensive for the existing occupants to return to. Haringey Council is a development partner of Grainger on the project, and has been unresponsive to the concerns of local residents.

Mrs Malti Patel has been running a successful shop on West Green Road, part of the coveted development site at Seven Sisters tube for 30 years, but now feels fearful and betrayed. “The council should be protecting hard-working, honest people like me, but I am being ignored. I will lose my business, my job, my friends, my security and my home,” she said.

The Wards Corner Community Coalition (WCC), a campaigning group formed by local residents and traders, has been fighting this one-size-fits-all planning approach since 2007. In an early WCC victory for the community, a judicial review and court of appeals ruling quashed an earlier plan by Grainger in 2010.Then, with huge public support including over 2000 signatures from local traders and residents, and in collaboration with  Planning Aid for London, English Heritage, Friends of the Earth and the Federation of Small Businesses, they managed to see off another version of the same project by the developer in July 2011.

The Community Plan

In defiance of Grainger’s planning approval for demolition, the community proposes an alternative plan based on restoration and developing the area’s existing character and strengths. WCC propose to restore the heritage character of the building and retain the existing market and small businesses whilst providing for new retail and restaurant space, an art gallery, performance space and a community room for events and meetings. WCC also foresees a wider regeneration of the area creating new affordable housing on the site around the market and bringing empty buildings back into use, addressing the goals set out in the original development brief.

Abigail Stevenson, an architectural designer who has worked with the WCC to develop the new Community Plan, stresses the need for planning to engage with and reflect the wishes of the local community. “A community-led alternative would be much better and more appropriate,” says Stevenson. “Architecture is not just about building buildings. You have to engage with people, because if people aren't on board with your ideas, they're not going to work.”

Local resident Candy Amsden, who is a long-time member of the Wards Corner Community Coalition, remembers well her first impressions on entering the Edwardian building:

“I saw this amazing space, and an amazing possibility. There's a set of sky-lights with beautiful cornicing and light just pours in around the pillars inside,” she said.

Amsden sees the Community Plan as a way to foster local enterprise in post-riots Tottenham.

"Small businesses will use other small businesses, they'll use the local accountant, local suppliers. Tesco's and Sainsbury's won't do that," she said.

WCC continues to make their case for community-led development with the plan’s public unveiling this week in Tottenham, which will focus on gathering further feedback and questions from local residents and traders through open small-group discussion.

The Community Plan application has been submitted to the Haringey Council planning authorities, and will be launched publicly at Tottenham Chances at 7pm on Thursday 26th July.

+44 (0)7908 705 377

For info on the community plan including images:

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Green Economy

It will stop climate change and the extinction of species and in so doing will create high growth rates and millions of jobs. It’s seen as a miraculous weapon. Through it, global capitalism will be stabilised. And then it will be sustainable as well.

But what is the green economy? In it, policy parameters are supposed to ensure the flow of capital to make markets and the economy "greener" and create "green" jobs. Enterprises are to pay an "appropriate" price for environmental damage. And not least: the state is supposed to orient its public procurements to sustainability criteria and create sustainable infrastructures. 

In 2012, the green economy is on everyone’s lips. For 20 years now people have been rhapsodising over the greening of capitalism. At the same time it is clear that somehow sustainable development is not faring so well. CO2 emissions are increasing. Biological diversity is contracting. Famine, impoverishment and social inequality are increasing in many countries. The much feted "conciliation of ecology and economy" is proving hard to construct. The green economy is not what many want to see it as: a magical formula which will offer solutions on a silver tray for many problems.

With this brochure the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation wants to demonstrate that green economy is a contested term, which can be filled with many different contents – according to different interests. And we hope to show where the proposals fall short, seek a too hasty compromise with the ruling forces and suppress alternatives rather than promote them.

It is clear that if the green economy does not break with the structures of the old economy and merely serves as a growth program for the latter, it will quickly lead to disillusionment and lose its sheen.

The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation is the research institute of Die Linke, (The Left Party, Germany)

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The reality of anti-Muslim prejudice in Britain

A few months ago, a Somali woman in her mid-twenties was walking in south London when she had dog faeces placed on her head by a young white male. She only noticed it after she entered a local shop.

Anti-Muslim prejudice has been something that Muslim communities have talked about even before 9/11 and 7/7. Yet tangible data and support for victims has been lacking.

When some Muslims talked about Islamophobia or anti-Muslim prejudice, the response was that they ‘had a chip on their shoulder’ or worse still, ‘were trying to gain sympathy to Islamicise Europe’.

Since February 2012, the TELL MAMA project has supported victims of anti-Muslim prejudice in England and mapped, measured and analysed hotspots where such incidents have been taking place.

Our key findings so far are that the main victims are Muslim women and of those, the most likely to be subjected to anti-Muslim incidents and attacks are those wearing the hijab – the religiously based head covering (even more so if they also wear the niqab, the full face veil).

The main perpetrators of the attacks have been white males between the ages of 20-50 – who it seems had no problem in verbally abusing Muslim women going about their daily business and even on two occasions urinating on a Muslim female in broad daylight on the street or rubbing faeces into her hijab.

One in three of the reported cases involved a perpetrator with a link to the far-right English Defence League (EDL) or the British National Party (BNP).

The day before yesterday, it was Jews; yesterday, the Black community; today it is the Muslims – and who knows what tomorrow will bring.
* * * * * * * * * *
Other incidents

In late May, Tony Vickers Liked the page of the Blackburn English Defence League, (in relation to news reports that Sayeeda Warsi did not report the extra income in the Lord’s Register of Interests), and wrote: “She is just another parasite that is sucking OUR Country dry, i would have no problem putting a piece of lead through her crossed eyed head.”

The incident has now been reported to police for further action. Warsi has also been informed.

One caller told the helpline: “I was on the bus on my way to college when I noticed a man swearing. He became louder and I heard him saying things like ‘take your ******* mask off’, ‘all of you muslim ***** are prostitutes, all of your women’, ‘we’re superior to you, we have black people in America’ and other foul things. I got off the bus a stop earlier as he became more crude and I got on the bus in front.”

Written by Fiyaz Mughal OBE director of Faith Matters, which runs the TELL MAMA anti-Muslim violence helpline.

This piece was first published at Liberal Conspiracy

Monday, 9 July 2012

An End to Victorian Era Welfare Reform – Citizen’s Income a Progressive Alternative

As their economic policies continue to fail, the ConDem coalition governments demonising rhetoric against welfare claimants grows ever louder. Sanctions (removing Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)) are up sharply (almost doubled) when measured against the last Labour administration. Under Labour, it was far from the free for all as painted by the current government, with sanctions regularly applied to Jobseeker’s, and the harassment and transferral of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants to JSA commonplace.

I worked as a Jobcentre adviser over the period covering the end of the Labour administration and beginning of the ConDem one, and I can tell you that all the tools we had to help people back into work were systematically removed (not that they were that great anyway), and replaced with only a negative approach of applying sanctions.

The ConDem’s though have taken this to new level now, presumably encouraged by focus group feedback about ‘the something for nothing society’, it is probably the only popular policy they have introduced. The fact it is inhumane, unfair and doesn’t really save much money is no deterrent to this most odious of governments.

The Green party takes a very different view of welfare matters, which is embodied in our policy of a Citizen’s Income (CI). It is a progressive policy whereby all adults in the UK would receive a non-means tested payment set at no less than the current JSA, although I would argue that it needs to set at a considerably higher level, because JSA currently at £71.00 per week is not enough to live on, and needs to be over £100.00 per week, at least.

This would allow people to work part-time if they so wish, to supplement their income, with no reduction in CI, or do voluntary work with no hassle from the Jobcentre, have confidence to start up as self- employed or take up family caring responsibilities. At least in the 1980’s recession (mainly in the north of the country), the Thatcher government just left you alone on the dole, with no requirement to be ‘searching for work’. This led to an upsurge in creative musical talent, such as The Smiths, above in the video.

Citizens’ would need to attend fairly regular interviews to prove that they are still alive and resident in the UK, where they could get information on paid and unpaid work. Other ‘benefits’ such as Housing Benefit (HB), Child Benefit (CB), Council Tax Benefit (CTB) and old age pensions would also be available.

So, how would this be paid for? Well, there would huge savings in admin costs over current JSA arrangements and income tax personal allowances (tax free earnings) could be reduced or withdrawn, but ultimately CI payments would be covered by increases in income tax, meaning that the wealthiest would pay more, whilst lower income people would be better or no worse off. Allowing for CI, the total income tax take would not increase overall.

The present system of benefits, apart from being expensive to administer, often encourages people not to work, especially part-time work, for fear of losing benefits and the system often claws back most or all benefits from those who do find paid work. This is equivalent to a 100% tax rate for those people moving from benefits to work, and is hardly a fair state of affairs.

CI has the potential to revolutionise the benefit system in the UK, whilst costing no more overall than the current tax and benefit system, and crucially, put an end to the demeaning benefits routine and complicated form filling, that now prevails.      

Sunday, 8 July 2012

House of Lords Reform – Overdue but Hardly a Priority

MP’s will vote on Tuesday (10 July) on the House of Lords Reform Bill, which rather modestly seeks to have 80% of peers elected by 2025, with the remaining 20% appointed by a statutory appointments commission, and reducing the total number of representatives in the upper chamber from 826 to 450. Elections would take place on the same day as the general election on an open-list system from eight different regions. The open list system is designed to give voters a choice between voting for a party and individuals.

Up to 100 Tory MP’s have said that they will vote with Labour to defeat the ‘programme motion’ which would put a limit on debate in the House of Commons to a maximum of 14 days, therefore throwing  into doubt  whether the bill will pass through the Commons at all. Opposition can also be expected in the House of Lords itself, where there are considerable numbers of Tory peers unhappy with the proposals.

The last Labour government began Lords reform, in a piecemeal, incremental way, first abolishing most of the hereditary peers, and then finally moving to a fully appointed chamber after a few more years. Clearly, in a democratic system, the hereditary principle had to go, and appointing peers is not much better, and so further reform is necessary. In my opinion all members of the upper house should be elected, and by a fairer, proportional system which reflects the diverse support for each of the political parties, including us Greens.

Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader is desperate for some kind of enduring ‘legacy’ for his deputy premiership and as some kind of justification for his party’s participation in the coalition government with the Tories. It is hard to see what progressive gains they have achieved thus far, so it is easy to understand Clegg’s determination to push this through and claim credit for the policy. Indeed, he has gone so far as to suggest that if the Bill does not pass, he will withdraw his MP’s support for the parliamentary boundary changes that the Tories want to improve their prospects at the next general election.

A recent Yougov poll for The Sun newspaper indicates that 76% of the British public support a fully or mostly elected House of Lords, but goes onto to say that only 18% regard Lords reform as an urgent matter. This seems about right to me, it is impossible to defend an unelected House, but it is pretty low on my list of political priorities at the moment. So many other issues, the state of the economy, jobs, welfare reform, privatisation of the NHS, climate change, public service cuts and education policy all dwarf constitutional reform at the moment in terms of importance.

If the price of losing Lords reform is the blocking of the parliamentary boundary changes in the Tories favour, then bring it on. And if this puts further pressure on the ConDem coalition government, perhaps even bringing about its early demise, as some have suggested, so much the better.