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of disciplinary action had been withdrawn.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.
On 4th May cyclist Ninian Fraser Donald was killed by a lorry at the junction of Whiston Road and Kingsland Road.
Local resident and Kingsland TRA Chair Anna Maria Mari has drawn up a petition calling for safety improvements at the junction.
It can be found at the bar in the Old King John’s Head pub on Whiston Road. If you are passing please pop in to sign it.
The ferocious war of words between Hackney Labour Party and Hackney Independent continues.
The reality is that whole chunks of Hackney have been handed over to public and private property developers and are being converted to blocks of exclusive one and two-bedroom flats which are to be sold or let at prices that are increasingly beyond the means of even the middle classes for whom they are intended. The original residents of Hackney have two choices, live in squalor or move out.
– Arthur Shuter
The saga began during the May elections when a number of inaccurate allegations were made against us in Labour Party election material: that Hackney Independent is against Anti-Social Behaviour Orders and only into “trendy issues such as Dalston theatre”!
The truth of the matter is that Hackney Independent had never commented on ASBOs, not least because in Haggerston ward only one had ever been issued, making it an issue irrelevant to local people at that time. But as ASBOs seem to be feature of the government’s agenda for some time to come we have opened a debate on the issue and given space in our Winter newsletter to a local teenager to air his views on the subject.
As for Dalston Theatre, which we did not mention in our election material, it’s hard to take seriously the idea that the eviction of hard-working shop-keepers and the demolition of an historical landmark for the sake of 19-story tower blocks of private flats is somehow a “trendy” issue.
Hackney Independent ran a completely positive election campaign that didn’t stoop to political smears and personal attacks on any of our opponents. Rightly or wrongly, we chose not to walk in the gutter. Perhaps we were naïve, but we genuinely believed – and still believe – that the reason most people get turned off by politics is just the kind of empty mud-slinging and spin that New Labour excels at.
Events have veered off at an even stranger angle in recent weeks with allegations from Haggerston Councillor Jonathan McShane in the Hackney Gazette. McShane states that Hackney Independent are opposed to CCTV on purely civil liberties grounds, that we are campaigning for the 2012 Olympics bid to be transferred to Paris and, most bizarrely, that we want a brothel to be opened in Gillett Square, Dalston!
In reference to CCTV, this was an article published in our free newsletter this summer entitled `Who benefits from `ASBOTV’?’ The piece was a detailed examination of the sinister Digital Bridge project on the Haberdasher and Charles square estates. This is a proposed scheme in which residents, for a fee, can gain access to local CCTV cameras through their own television set. (See Summer 2006 newsletter on this website.)
The conclusion of this article was clear: `Hackney Independent have never had an “official position” on CCTV. We would like to start a real debate on the issue that doesn’t just accept New Labour’s solutions. After speaking to local people and doing surveys on estates we know that many people in Haggerston are pro-CCTV.’
OLYMPICS – GETTING A FAIR DEAL
The Olympics is coming to London in 2012. There is nothing that Hackney Independent or anybody else can do or say to change this fact. But what we can do is to try and ensure that the Olympic project benefits everybody rather than just the property developers and the politicians’ egos in City Hall. That means
*construction work that is well-paid, unionised and primarily draws its labour from the local area
*other forms of employment to meet a minimum standard London wage (as TELCO have campaigned for)
*social housing rather than private developments
*a building programme that respects local green space rather than bulldozing over it
*consultation that’s a genuine dialogue with local residents rather than the snooty dismissal to opposition that is always generated by the urban elite.
Hackney Independent has no illusions that that the Olympics is about sport. It is about business and making money. As this process unfolds in the coming years we will work with others to ensure as much of the billions spent on this project benefits the working classes of East London as is possible. Having said that, we are sadly under no illusions that the usual fat-cats and prima-donna politicians will be those who most benefit…
Unfortunately, it may prove to be the case that the people of London – after 2012 and beyond – will wish that Paris had won this white-elephant after all. (Those interested in a critical analysis of 2012 are recommended the games monitor website at www.gamesmonitor.org.uk.)
PIMP MY PUBLIC SERVICES
The accusation that we are for building a brothel in Gillett Street has been adequately responded to in the letters pages of the Hackney Gazette, copies of which can be found in the `letters’ section of this website.
As Carl Taylor wrote: `Hackney Independent has no desire to see a brothel built in Gillett Square, or elsewhere.’ Arthur Shuter made the point: `The reality is that whole chunks of Hackney have been handed over to public and private property developers and are being converted to blocks of exclusive one and two-bedroom flats which are to be sold or let at prices that are increasingly beyond the means of even the middle classes for whom they are intended. The original residents of Hackney have two choices, live in squalor or move out.’
THE REAL ISSUES
Since the elections Hackney Independent has distributed two newsletters across the ward and organised two Kids Cinema shows, Labour has not put out a newsletter in the ward. The Hackney Labour website shows no updates since May. What a contrast to the months running up to the council elections when Labour was putting out regular newsletters and updating their website. We have said it before and we will say it again now: Labour lies to the working class during elections and ignores us in between.
Rather than address the real issues of social cleansing and the displacement of the poor in their vision of Hackney’s future, Labour can only resort to lies and spin. Pipe’s `I Love Hackney’ sloganeering is a piece of empty gush. Yes, Jules, we too `love’ Hackney – but we want a Hackney that values all its residents not just those who can afford to move in and live here.
Despite Mayor Pipe’s jubilant post-election address that Hackney Independent `are finished’, the group is still actively campaigning as a part of and with the working class of Hackney. We will continue to do so – on real issues rather than the fiction that Hackney Labour Party accuses us of dealing with. Councillor McShane says he looks forward to challenging Hackney Independent at the next local elections. We should remind Cllr McShane that the battle for ideas and campaigning takes place in the here and now – not just every four years at election time. This is the battle that Hackney Independent is engaged in at this moment.
The last six months have been a hectic time for Hackney Independent. Starting at the end of November last year, our involvement with the occupation at 34 Broadway Market brought onto the national and international stage a level of condemnation for Hackney Council which is usually only reserved for dodgy third world regimes.
Not long after the occupation of Tony’s café was over we commenced the Haggerston local election campaign. The result was a victory for the Labour party with their candidates securing an average 986 votes compared to Hackney Independent’s highest vote of 616.
Labour won every seat in Hackney South & Shoreditch. They faced strong challenges from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Queensbridge and Hoxton, where, aside from a strong personal vote for Andrew Boff, the opposition parties achieved results comparable to Hackney Independent’s in Haggerston.
Of course its particular gutting to be beaten by a Blairite careerist with his snout in the PFI trough; a Trotskyite infiltrator and Cllr. Bright, but Hackney Labour party, feeling seriously challenged by Hackney Independent, threw all their available resources into the campaign.
Labour fought a negative campaign: their main trick being to scream of “chaos” if the Town Hall was to return to being a hung-council.
Most annoying was the dirty leaflet distributed on the day before polling day warning Haggerston residents that “a vote for independent is a vote for the Tory’s”. According to Labour we are under the thumb of the Conservative party!
We were a bit miffed about this as no one person involved in Hackney Independent has ever voted Conservative in their life, let alone been a member.
They also drew in criticism that the H.I. candidates weren’t local, and this was in a leaflet hand-delivered by “local” Labour candidate Barry Buitekant who lives in… wait for it… Upper Clapton!
On polling day itself they had bussed in Labour party activists from all over London, with Jules Pipe himself being present on and off throughout the day.
In his main post-election winning address Mayor Pipe singled out Hackney Independent for particular attention:
‘Voters in Haggerston saw through the nonsense being peddled by Hackney Independent, particularly about Broadway market where they had joined up with local Tories. Residents recognised that they had nothing positive to offer local people. They are now a spent force in Hackney.’
That’s fighting talk Jules!
Of course victory is preferable to coming second place again, but we take heart that our challenge prompted such Labour panic.
While Labour won using fear, lies and manipulation, Hackney Independent stood on a platform of community and solidarity.
We will continue to do so in the future.
For Hackney Independent, post-election plans are to build upon our free newsletter by increasing its size and distribution: as Labour have now publicly labelled us a primary threat to their rule in Hackney, it would be a shame to let them off the hook.
We also need to work out ways of securing regular streams of finance and to expand upon our activist base.
Needless to say, our work with Tenants’ Associations and around such campaigns as Broadway Market and Haggerston swimming pool will continue.
The challenge and the need for such an endeavour is still there. As Tony Blair’s neo-liberalism bites even more, the far-right will gain, and Labour will shrink.
We will work towards building a confident working class independent of the existing political structures, so that we can face the immediate challenges and work towards building a credible long-term strategy.
For those who haven’t given up hope yet we ask you to play a part in Hackney Independent.
Residents of the Whiston and Goldsmiths’ estates – and especially those in Debdale Court – are less than impressed with Hackney Council and British Waterways over the proposed development at Acton’s Lock. Squeezed between Debdale Court and the Regents Canal at the Eastern End of Whiston Road, the five-story building will comprise 25 flats and a restaurant.
It was given planning permission by Hackney Council in August, however Residents of Debdale Court, whose block will be dwarfed by the new building and whose views of the canal will disappear, have told Hackney Independent that the first they were aware of the proposed development was the receipt of a leaflet late in 2005, after planning permission was awarded. This makes a mockery of British Waterways commitment to consultation. Their website gushes: “Our canals and rivers pass through local communities across the length and breadth of the country. Waterway development is often closely linked to community aspirations and social issues at the local level. It is essential that the views of local communities are fully represented and effectively listened to. We are committed to getting the processes of dialogue and accountability absolutely right.” Right.
Typically, such rhetoric about ‘consultation’ hides the reality on the ground. ‘A similar development was proposed here about five years ago,’ says a Debdale resident, ‘but a petition and local pressure stopped it. There’s been no consultation with residents this time round. There’s no-one at Hackney Council who’ll tell you what’s going on.’ Hackney Council has decided to invite resident input into policy about the sale of its commercial properties, having been forced to by recent high-profile campaigns in Broadway Market and Dalston Lane. Hackney Independent would like to see this extended to all new developments in residential areas. Acton’s Lock is yet another example of ‘regeneration’ impacting negatively on the local communities it is supposed to benefit.
The Haggerston ward election resulted in a victory for the Labour party, with Hackney Independent coming second.
On average the Hackney Independent candidates received 578 votes while the Labour party candidates received 986.
We will be writing a more detailed analysis of the campaign sometime in the future.
Haggerston School increased it’s number of pupils gaining five A*-C grades by 14 per cent compared to last year, making it the most improved school in the borough.
Last July, there was a big demonstration of parents and pupils against the Learning Trust’s plans to make Haggerston a mixedsex school. The Learning Trust walked out of a meeting before Christmas, refusing to discuss the issue with parents.
So why, when it is so successful and there is so much opposition from the local community, does the Learning Trust want to force changes on Haggerston School? It’s most likely that this is a first step towards making Haggerston School a City Academy – they know there’ll be even more opposition to an academy, so they’ll force changes on Haggerston as it is in order to run it into the ground.
On January 21 an article appeared in the Independent newspaper that would cause any sane person to choke on their breakfast.
Entitled ‘Hipper than Hoxton: why Haggerston is the place to be’, it took its lead from the new edition of the Lonely Planet guide to London. In this book Haggerston was described as one of the “chic new neighbourhoods” that makes the capital such a “dynamic and buzzing place”.
This fabulous claim was based upon a review of one restaurant, a pub and the “thriving Saturday farmers’ market”.
In the Independent article a declaration of war was read out by the owner of the Cat and Mutton ‘gastropub’, Kevin Cooper: “Actually we are pretty much on the frontline of gentrification. The White Lightning brigade – the cider favoured by drunks and derelicts – have not entirely disappeared, but it’s now so much better than Shoreditch.”
Thanks for that contribution Kev. We would boycott the pub in protest but nobody with any taste would be seen dead in the Cat and Mutton anyway.
Still, the benefits of progress and change mean that we can now pay £3 for a cup of Caffè Latte – even if we do have to drink it in the ruins of a community.
Hackney Independent has been working with tenants and residents in Hoxton and Haggerston to try and create an independent group that puts the interests of working people (the majority of Hackney’s population) first.
For over 5 years we have supported campaigns to protect vital community services in Shoreditch, worked with tenants to tackle housing issues such as repairs and regularly put out a free newspaper that tells a very different story from the glossy spin of Hackney Today. Our main focus is on community politics but when we stood candidates in Haggerston in the last council elections we came within 90 votes of beating the Labour party.
We don’t pretend to have all the answers and certainly don¹t have a ‘party line’. We are currently talking with people on estates in Haggerston to see if they might be interested in helping to elect independent candidates who would report directly to residents. In the past we have pledged to commit any councillor’s salary towards creating a drop in centre so that people can report issues and problems directly to any elected representative.
We’d also like to talk with others in the borough who might want to share ideas or group together to work towards building an independent alternative to the main establishment parties. For those who are genuinely interested you can contact us through this website: or leave a message on 0207 684 1743.