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1,000 back low pay fight

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Issue 1743

Minimum wage is not enough

1,000 back low pay fight

By JIM FAGAN, joint branch secretary Tower Hamlets Healthcare UNISON (personal capacity)

OVER 1,000 people packed into an exciting meeting in east London last week to build the fight against poverty pay. The meeting, in Walthamstow, saw working class people from right across east London, young and old, black, white and Asian, come together in a determined mood to do something about low pay.

The rally was organised by The East London Communities Organisation (TELCO), made up of churches, mosques and community groups. TELCO has approached UNISON and other trade unions to build a campaign to turn east London into a “living wage zone”. The result of research by the Family Budget Unit for UNISON shows that to have an even minimally acceptable standard of living in the area demands a wage of at least 6.30 an hour, far more than the miserable level of New Labour’s minimum wage. The 6.30 an hour figure will form the basis for the campaign.

John Armitage, a Catholic priest from Canning Town, launched the campaign with an inspirational speech in which he talked about building on the tradition of struggle in the East End. He argued we should draw on the example of the struggles against poverty and for social justice, like those of the match girls and the dockers in the 1880s. Representatives from different schools and churches gave enthusiastic commitment to building the campaign. One group of school students reported how their campaign had already won higher pay for some of their school staff.

Local New Labour MPs also spoke in favour of the living wage campaign, though this would seem to bring them into conflict with the policies of their government, which refuses to increase the minimum wage to anything like 6.30 an hour.

Leaders of local councils, like Hackney’s Jules Pipe, also pledged support to the campaign. Yet Pipe is the leader of a council which is systematically reducing wages and sacking workers, throwing working class families into poverty.

Despite these contradictions, the overall mood of the meeting was anger among working class people at what low pay does to our communities and a determination to fight against it. Our trade union branch is the first to affiliate to the TELCO campaign. We hope we will be the first of many.

THE UNISON union has called a national demonstration over the minimum wage in Manchester on Saturday 28 April. It assembles at 11.30am at Whitworth Park, departs at 1.30pm and marches to a rally in Albert Square.

Fury over our rent and bugs

I, ALONG with around 30 other student nurses, protested at a board meeting of the UCLH hospitals NHS trust last week. I live in the Rockefeller nurses home in central London, one of the trust’s residences. There are regular infestations of ants and cockroaches. There is also a worrying lack of security.

The trust has decided to restructure rents. Its “fair and affordable” rents are 250 a month for all, whether staff nurse, ancillary worker or student nurse. For student nurses that amounts to 58 percent of our bursaries. Four students are facing eviction because they cannot keep up payments. Student nurses, backed by UNISON, marched on and lobbied the trust board demanding our rents are cut to 150 a month.

Our campaign has pushed the trust to talk of concessions.

  • Anna Denby
  • Send messages of support to UNISON UCLH hospitals, c/o Middlesex Hospital, Mortimer Street, London W1N 8AA.

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