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August Goff: Birmingham students unite against climate change: 15th March 2019

August, who lives in Moseley, sends a first-hand account of Birmingham students’ march against climate change. 

He writes:

More than five hundred Birmingham students bunked off school today to march against climate change.

All Birmingham-based photographs reproduced with permission: copyright August Goff

Youth Strike 4 Climate coordinated young people from various educational establishments across the city who met up in the city centre.

They marched from Victoria Square, down New Street, through Pigeon Park and back to Victoria Square to protest against the inaction of governments to tackle climate change.

The march was organised by Katie Riley, a Birmingham student. She spoke at the rally, saying:

“Educate the youth of tomorrow and the parliament of today because people who don’t know what climate change is about don’t know how dangerous it is. Some people think the topic is dull and boring because the curriculum makes it like that. So, we need to change how people view climate change in order to get the change we deserve.”

Councillors from local political parties attended, as did Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Yardley.

Similar events have taken place in 100 British towns and other cities including London, Edinburgh, Canterbury, Oxford and Cambridge, calling for urgent action to tackle climate change, cut emissions and switch to renewable energy.

A few hours later a message was received from Irish colleagues, sending a podcast with messages from two 11-year-olds, Eve O’Connor and Beth Malone, who are involved in the schools climate strikes movementThousands turned out in Dublin and demonstrations were held in many towns.

 

 

 

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Birmingham Council adopts the government’s austerity agenda: asking the low paid to accept even lower wages

In July, Birmingham City Council reneged on an ACAS-mediated, cabinet-approved agreement between the Unite union and Birmingham’s talented Council Leader, John Clancy, which was to end the seven-week refuse collection dispute.

The well-paid BCC chief executive (right) was seeking to downgrade 106 Grade 3 jobs to a Grade 2, which meant that workers would lose £3,500-5,000 from their already low salaries of around £20,000.

And when BCC reneged on the Unite/Clancy deal, they also issued redundancy notices to the Grade 3 workers. These were later banned in the High Court when Mr Justice Fraser spoke at length about the “extraordinary” and “astonishing” state of affairs at Birmingham City Council with “chaos” between senior personnel. Read more about his reflections here.

Council leader Ian Ward (left) told a BBC reporter: “The cost of the (three month) dispute, yes that’s cost in excess of £6m”.

This ‘new’ version of the original deal (details here), described by union insiders as a ‘total climbdown’, was agreed at a special meeting of the BCC cabinet on Friday.

 ITV reports that yesterday Birmingham bin workers voted to accept the council deal.

So a seven week dispute was allowed to go on for three months, regardless of health and safety implications, losing £6m of ratepayers’ money – and the wrong head rolled.

From ‘Our Birmingham‘,  under another title.

 

 

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Media 62: A well-kept secret? Government proposal to intervene to invest local government pension funds in projects such as HS2

A Lancashire UNISON reader mentioned this recently and an online search confirmed a message which I had found hard to believe:

unisonGovernment proposals to force the 89 local government pension funds to invest in infrastructure projects have prompted over 100,000 people to sign a petition calling for a debate in Parliament, says UNISON today (Friday).

The proposals are part of the government’s attempt to create six new multi-billion pound British wealth funds. UNISON is concerned that the move could take away funds’ ability to invest in the best interests of local government pension scheme (LGPS) members.

If these changes come into force, it could mean the new funds replace government funding for roads, bridges and railways, which might not give LGPS members the best possible return, says UNISON.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “It’s time ministers granted a debate in Parliament on the future of the local government pension scheme. No other pension fund in the UK has this level of interference, and it’s important that MPs can scrutinise proposals affecting one of the largest schemes in the UK.

“There must be proper consultation on the introduction of the new wealth funds, one that must involve unions in any investment decisions.

“Ministers must allow council pension funds to make their own decisions on where they invest the current and future pension pots of care workers, teaching assistants and social workers, and allow them to get the best return.”

The ‘thin end of the wedge’?

From the government’s response to the petition here:

We have recently consulted on proposals to grant the Secretary of State a power of intervention . . .

(Department for Communities and Local Government) Councils must invest local government pension scheme funds in the best interests of scheme members. The Government has no intention of setting targets for infrastructure investment or removing the right of individual pension fund authorities to make their own decisions about strategic asset allocation. However, the pooling scheme assets announced at the July 2015 Budget will improve their capacity to invest in infrastructure, as well as achieving significant cost savings, while maintaining returns. (Ed: weasel words follow)

weasel words cartoonWe have recently consulted on proposals to grant the Secretary of State a power of intervention which would further protect members’ and taxpayers’ interests.

We expect that the power to intervene would be used exceptionally when there was clear evidence that a pension fund authority was not acting reasonably and lawfully.

The Government is currently considering the responses to the consultation.

– The text of the parliamentary petition is available here. Nearly 103,000 people have currently signed the petition.

Media contacts:

Alan Weaver T: 0207 121 5555 M: 07939 143310 E: a.weaver@unison.co.uk

Liz Chinchen T: 0207 121 5463 M: 07778 158175 E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk