An exchange of letters about Broadway Market

Published in Hackney Gazette 2 August 2007

[The Gazette] article “Alarm Bells Ring on Broadway”, suggested that the Saturday market has been a “catalyst for regeneration”. If it was genuine regeneration, there would be tangible benefits for the wider community.

This latest invasion of Hackney doesn’t even have the apologetic stance of gentrification, which would at least give a nod to the underlying conflict and tension for those excluded from the “benefits” of the process. This one-day-a-week public exhibition of over-priced over-consumption is an affront to ordinary, working people.

It is more like outright colonisation by over-paid white, middle-class yuppies who have nothing better to do than fritter their sizable wage packets (sorry, “salaries”) on items of food that cost the equivalent of most people’s weekly food bill.

They obstruct the pavements with their selfish appropriation of what should be shared public space for walking so that they can pretend that they are part of some upmarket pavement café culture and they relentlessly wheel or ride their bikes on the pavement to the detriment of anyone who foolishly thinks they are meant for ordinary Hackney pedestrians.

Then, of course, there are the yummy mummies brushing aside anyone in their way with their over-size baby buggies or causing a bottleneck while they stop to yatter about their stressful day of shopping and eating, without any thought for anyone else.

Even more overtly indicating a double standard are the pub groups sitting on the pavements as if the market is their private beach, while, of course, if the local youth (particularly if they were black) behaved in this way, there would be mutterings about intimidating groups of young people, police cars would be called and no doubt Asbos issued.

Six days of the week this is a street that has very little to offer the ordinary shopper, apart from the local supermarkets now having to compete with the chains that can undercut them and the (ordinary) vegetable stall which comes one day a week – but how long before the snobs stop this. The market has no facilities for the local community, no youth club or community centre or meeting place for pensioners, and it is unfortunate that the “improvement” to London Fields only echoes this cultural and class divide.

This isn’t regeneration, this is a perfect example of the divided Britain that Blair has left us, a corner of Hackney where society is stratified into race and class divisions – and celebrated as a success.

J Walker

[from Hackney Gazette 9 August 2007]

Mr Walker is ideally qualified to join the team of Hackney Council officials who have been given the job of managing the Saturday market on Broadway. He has clearly not been to the market and, therefore, does not understand how it functions.

If Mr Walker does come to Broadway Market, he will find that he can buy a loaf of bread for under £1 from the local baker, wonderful sausages from the local butcher, good cheap fruit and veg seven days a week – and, oh dear, drink coffee at pavement cafes run buy people who actually live here.

He would also know that the market’s regular fruit and veg stall operates for five days a week, not one.

The Saturday market, founded and operated by volunteers in the Broadway Market Traders’ and Residents’ Association, brings well over 3,000 people to a street that was all but once deserted on Saturdays. Many come back to shop in the week.

It generates more than £30,000 a year in licence fees for Hackney Council and costs taxpayers nothing.

It enables the traders’ association to support a youth group on the Regent’s estate. It gives young business people a start in life.

It has been described as the most successful community-run street market in the country. And, yes, it has helped to regenerate the area.

One reason for its success is that the shops are part of the market. The Saturday traders compliment the shops, they do not compete with them. Customers don’t buy fresh coconuts from a stall – they buy them from Spirit’s grocer’s shop. They don’t buy hardware from a stall – they can get almost anything they need from Bradbury’s. The result is a glorious mix of cultures and colours.

Cllr Alan Laing, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods, told a public meeting on Broadway Market recently that the council had a statutory duty to manage Hackney’s street markets. He was misinformed.

The London Local Authorities Act states that the councils have a duty to regulate street markets. They can appoint agents to manage them as Islington has done, or they can work in partnership with community groups.

Indeed, Mr Laing’s own officials have been instructed to reply to the association’s proposed partnership agreement. They have yet to do so.

Perhaps, Cllr Laing would care to come to the Saturday some day and see for himself how it is run. I’m sure that the market department’s managers, and even Mr Walker, could be persuaded to join him.

Andrew Veitch
Resident Executive Member
Broadway Market Traders’ and Residents’ Association

Estate Plus Protests

BANNER-waving tower-block tenants staged an angry protest last week over sell-off plans which could see their council homes demolished.

Families living in the 160 flats on the Gascoyne Two estate in South Hackney are fighting privatisation plans which could involve knocking down their four rundown 10-storey blocks.

Furious tenants complain they face an uncertain future, plus higher rents and less secure tenancies, over proposals to transfer control from Hackney Council to a housing association landlord.

They have blasted as a “sham” a public consultation open day setting out the preferred options for demolition or refurbishment.

The plans include bulldozing at least two, or maybe all four, blocks and replacing them with low-rise homes.

The alternative is to renovate the buildings, although tenants are angry that they will continue to have to use costly storage heaters because the design of the 1960s-built flats has been deemed structurally unsafe for gas central heating.

“Tenants will face huge upheaval being moved off the estate while the demolition or refurbishment is carried out with no guarantee they will return or be offered comparable-sized accommodation,” said Adrian Peacock, who lives in Ravenscroft Point.

A letter signed by more than 30 tenants opposing the sell-off plans has been sent to the three Wick ward councillors.

This week, the deputy mayor of Hackney, Cllr Jamie Carswell, gave reassurances that the open day was designed to inform residents of the latest developments and get an initial opinion, and that other consultation events would be arranged.

He defended the council’s Estates Plus scheme, which he said was funded separately and designed to improve the estate as a whole, supplementing Decent Homes work.

[Taken from the Hackney Gazette website]

Victory at Haggerston School

French multinational company Sodexho has been forced to stop paying poverty wages to their canteen staff at Haggerston School. From September the canteen staff will be paid the London living wage and over the next year, their wages will increase to £9 an hour achieving equality with their fellow workers in another Hackney school.

The victory was achieved after a very successful one-day strike in
June. On the day of the strike the catering workers set up a picket
line and 35 teachers and 2 technicians refused to cross the picket
line. Sodexho attempted to smash the strike by bringing in managers
to run the kitchens. However, due to the support of the teachers,
most pupils had to be sent home.

The school is tied into a PFI contract with Sodexho who built a
canteen in return for a long-term contract. Sodexho then complained
that they weren’t making enough profit due to the government’s
healthy eating initiative. This was their justification for paying
their staff less than the minimum wage.

The teachers and technicians who refused to cross the picket line on
the day of the strike were threatened with disciplinary action by
the school’s head teacher. They were given letters instructing them
to attend individual interviews and warning them that they were
being investigated for misconduct or gross misconduct – which could
lead to dismissal.

The trade unionists received excellent support from across the
country from rank and file activists and other militants.
Unfortunately they were not supported by the National Union of
Teachers. The General Secretary, Steve Sinnott, wrote to the 35 NUT
members who had not crossed the picket line, warning them that if
they did it again they would be sacked! This was the fourth
repudiation letter NUT members had received during the dispute.

NUT members were however supported by the local branch of the union,
who agreed to represent all NUT members at these disciplinary
hearings. At the very first interview, the management were asked to
produce the disciplinary policy they were using. After a farcical
hour of ransacking filing cabinets, the management were unable to
produce the disciplinary policy or any record of one having been
adopted. The interviews were therefore cancelled.

Despite this embarrassment, the head teacher waited until the day
before the summer holidays to inform “the accused” that any threat
of disciplinary action had been withdrawn. Citing the resolution of
the dispute between the catering staff and Sodexho as well as the
need for good staff relations, rather than their own ineptitude,
staff were informed that no disciplinary action would be taken –
unless it happens again!

The victory of the catering staff and the solidarity shown by the
teachers and technicians at Haggerston shows that strike action can
win – even when we are fighting a multinational company involved in
privatisation. And whatever the anti-union laws might say, the
words “you don’t cross picket lines” remain fundamental to all
workers in struggle.