Tower Hamlets Council staff to strike

NeilNeil Kinnock making his 1985 Labour Party conference speech

On Friday 3rd July a 3-day strike by 4,000 Tower Hamlets Council staff will start. It’s over the forced requirement for all staff to sign a different replacement contract of employment by Monday 6th July. I read in the East London Advertiser that unions claim that the new agreement, “… ends allowances and employment rights with inequalities that hit lower paid workers.” Unison says that those who refuse to sign the new contracts will be deemed sacked.

Talks have been going on since January. Unison postponed strike action in April because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Book cover - Great British Speeches by Simon Heffer
Book cover – Great British Speeches by Simon Heffer

A while back a friend bought me a book called Great British Speeches by Simon Heffer. It resurfaced from behind the sofa yesterday. First thing this morning I read Neil Kinnock’s speech to the Labour Party Conference in Bournemouth in 1985. In 1983 a hard left Labour Party under Michael Foot lost the general election winning just 209 seats against the Conservatives 397. In 1985 Labour was still suffering at the hands of Militant Tendency. The leader of Liverpool City Council, Derek Hatton, (remember him?) hired 30 taxis to deliver redundancy notices to council staff!

In his speech Kinnock said that you couldn’t enact a socialist manifesto without actually getting elected. He said that Labour had to convince people, reach out to them. To win over a majority of voters (who were not poor, unemployed or victimised), the hard left in the Labour Party would need to compromise. It couldn’t. Meanwhile newspapers readers, including myself, were being entertained by Derek Hatton, and other lunacies! Part of what Neil Kinnock said was, ”… and you end in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council – a Labour council – hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing our redundancy notices to its own workers.”

Having read Kinnock’s 1985 conference speech I had a surreal moment when I launched twitter and saw the headline: “Grotesque chaos of Labour Mayor handing out P45s”. It’s an article in East London News about Tower Hamlets mayor, John Biggs. It’s well worth a read.

We live in crazy times.

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