What it means to be Black in Lambeth

Before me, my older sister worked in Lambeth and because of her I spent a great deal of time around Lambeth and Lambeth staff. Evenings of Black and white staff together – from the cleaners to directors – all with one thing in common, they were all Lambeth. I loved it and knew I was Lambeth at heart. I pursued every possibility of employment in the Borough. In October 2002 to my absolute delight I got a job in Central Rehousing Services. I now realise that I had unfortunately arrived at the tail end of an era of positive change for Black staff in Lambeth. Soon the Council entered a state of permanent restructuring and the unwilling exodus of many senior Black managers and many white colleagues who were no longer seen as fitting new Lambeth.

For the first few years I thoroughly enjoyed my employment and felt that I was able to positively contribute to effecting change for Lambeth residents. However, as the Council changed so too did my working life and my resolve to do what was necessary to challenge the devastating effects of restructures. The main purpose of many restructures seemed to be the removal of large numbers of staff, primarily Black staff.  In anger at the destruction of services to tenants and the loss of increasing numbers of respected colleagues, I became a Unison shop steward.

As members of staff we are able to identify inequality and injustice in our workplaces however, as a shop steward these are magnified because of representing numerous cases of staff subjected to unjust and unequal treatment. Only then did I recognise scale of the problems facing the Borough that I had longed to work for. It was also at this point that I started facing personal consequences for challenging institutional racism. Until 2007 my employment had been without blemish, even receiving an award at a staff conference. But following a contentious restructure which required forthright action to redress inequality, I found myself subject to the full force of the organisation’s wrath. I faced several years of continuous disciplinary action, including criminal prosecution on faked evidence. With resilience and a commitment to outlast those responsible, I am still here in Lambeth and they are gone. I recommend this course of action to all staff when faced with adversity!

As the daughter one of the first civil rights leaders in the United Kingdom I am only too aware of the way institutional racism works. For instance, my father, Michael X was directly responsible helping to bring about the very first race equality legislation but was ironically the first to be imprisoned under this legislation. This would mark the beginning of a long and concerted effort by the State to vilify and penalise Michael X for challenging the outright, violent racist attacks faced by the Windrush generation.

Ultimately, even after leaving the UK to escape State sponsored hate, the consequences of race hate followed, and Michael X was executed in Trinidad with the support and assistance of the British Privy Council.  But this was not the end. The State had not yet completed what it had set out to do. Information relating to a Black Civil Rights movement in the UK is notable only by its absence. The State erased our history and our children do not know and are not taught the history of their proud past and those who, along with Michael X, fought so we could have better lives.

My background prepared me for adversity and gave me an advantage – resilience and a profound understanding of how the system works to destabilise Black progression, while giving a false impression of cooperating in the fight for equality. I am also committed to ensuring that our history and presence in Lambeth is carved in stone.

I, along with my amazing UNISON colleagues have fought for the rights and continued presence of Black staff in Lambeth. We are not a minority! We are many and they are few, and though we struggle for equality Lambeth Black staff have demonstrated our power! That fighting spirit that kept our rebellious ancestors going for hundreds of years, courses through our veins!

To be Black in Lambeth means being alert to the possibility of recrimination for raising concerns generally, worse if our concerns relate to issues of race discrimination.

But together we know our collective POWER and are not afraid to assert it

To be Black in Lambeth means sitting in offices that are sometimes segregated along racial lines.

Yet our shared history in Lambeth is marked by our standing together at demonstrations and strike action for collective rights of ALL workers

To be Black in Lambeth means our white colleagues can work from home or Starbucks without having to plead and bargain for this right, as we have had to.

Through our lasting friendships we support each other emotionally and even financially in times of hardship

To be Black in Lambeth means being micromanaged so that even the time for toilet breaks are be monitored.

We won’t be worn down! Outside work we party together, attend weddings, special events and funerals of our colleagues, who are also friends

To be Black in Lambeth means knowing that the young white man who has arrived as an administrative officer will soon be our boss.

Yet we continue to hold Lambeth dear to our hearts and are committed to fighting for a better Lambeth. Our Lambeth that once saw better days and will again.

Solidarity with all those facing racist violence

BLACK LIVES MATTER. JUSTICE FOR GEORGE FLOYD
On Friday 11th September there will be a court hearing for the four officers charged with the murder of George Floyd.
Join Stand Up to Racism Southwark and Lambeth to stand in solidarity with all those demanding justice for George Floyd and the end to racist policing in the US and here in the UK.
In the UK, we demand the end of Stop and Search under Section 60, which is disproportionately used against black people.
There will be socially distanced protest with speakers followed by a Take the Knee.
WHERE: Outside the U.S. Embassy, Nine Elms SW11 7US
WHEN: Friday 11th September, 6pm
Petition to stop Section 60
Section 60 (S60) Gives Police the right to search people when they ‘believe’ them to be ‘potentially dangerous.’ Section 60 has been both overused and misused and is used to harass Black & Ethnic Minority people across the UK.
Official statistics show that Section 60 powers are disproportionately used against black people. A black person is 47 times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person.
Section 60 searches have increased in the capital from 1,836 in 2017-18 to 9,599 in 2018-19
This is a fundamentally flawed law that discriminates against Black and Ethnic Minority People and must be scrapped
Stand up to Racism South London are campaigning to prohibit Section 60, suspicion-less stop and search. Lambeth and Southwark council report some of highest figures for stop and search in London and must be made accountable.
Neither the massive growth in section 60 searches nor the disproportionate focus on people from black and minority groups can be justified as an objective response to violent crime.

Solidarity with Tower Hamlets workers!

Tower Hamlets Council – which is a Labour run authority – is planning to ‘sack and re-engage’ its entire workforce in order to force them to accept worse terms and conditions.

‘Sack and re-engage’ is what Asda did to its workforce before Christmas. British Airways is doing it to its worekrs now. It is shocking to see a Labour run council deploy the same tactic.

The new plan, called Tower Rewards, includes:

– Out of hours pay is reduced
– Severance pay has been slashed
– Reduces the Flexi scheme
– Worsens pay for some grades
– Staff being asked to work anywhere in the borough with little notice whilst travel allowances are being cut.

There is an online rally being organised by Tower Hamlets UNISON on Friday 3 July at 11am – register online here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/friday-3rd-monday-6th-tower-rewards-strike-virtual-picket-and-rally-tickets-110797373928
We will stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Tower Hamlets UNISON and other unions resisting this awful attack on their working conditions.

Black Lives Matter – Justice for George Floyd!

By Jeremy Drinkall, schools convenor

For over a week now US cities have been convulsed by an unprecedented wave of militant fightback precipitated by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police officer Derek Chauvin.

For almost nine minutes Floyd, a black man, was held down by Chauvin’s knee on his neck in front of cameras while Floyd begged for his life. Even after he lay limp and unresponsive, Chauvin continued his torture of Floyd for several minutes more, even though bystanders filmed the murder and begged the cops to get up and let him breathe. George Floyd died and will never breathe again.

Continue reading

Draft motion: The labour movement and the fight against state violence and racism

From Ruth Cashman, Joint Branch Secretary

Many of you will remember that following a racist mass stopping operation at Brixton Tube we started working with the local RMT branch on a campaign around the police. Unfortunately, it petered out as other priorities took over but the reps Stephen and Phil were supportive and have been active in the latest BLM protests. Given the historical moment, it would be good to contact local unions to start that work again. The branch has a great history of campaigning around police violence, racism and surveillance.  Below, is a starting discussion document. I wanted to put it as a motion to the Branch Meeting, but I think we probably don’t have enough time to discuss in full so will but to next BC catch up.

I’d appreciate feedback and suggestions on the draft motion below

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Return to work? Read on…

As many of you will know the government is planning on lifting some of the restrictions next week and having primary schools reopen on 1 June.

The trade unions are very concerned by these proposals. The UK still has one of the highest death rates in the world and the infection rate is still very high.

If there is a ‘return to work’ in your workplace then you need to see the risk assessments done by your employer. They should cover all of the duties you will be expected to perform and how they can be made as safe as possible.

Lambeth Council will not be bringing people back to work without consultations with the unions first.

If you have an underlying health condition or live with someone who does then you should still be at home.

UNISON is very concerned about the announcement that the furlough money will be reduced at a time when the pandemic is still very much with us.

Many of our members work in social care and we know hoe dangerous that is and how many elderly people are dying in care homes. This is advice for staff in those workplaces on PPE PPE advice for social care workers

For other members please read this PPE general advice.

If you have any concerns that your workplace is not safe then you are entitled under your legal rights to refuse to attend a workplace. You have this right under Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Please visit this website to read more and contact us if you have any questions.

BAME members

The shocking announcement today that BAME people are four times more likely to die of COVID-19 should be a wakeup call for this government and our bosses. BAME people make up a lot of health and social care workers, they are on the front line every day saving lives but the cost is too high.

If you are a BAME member of UNISON then we would like to hear from you about your experiences at work during the lock down. Please email shannah@lambeth.gov.uk

UNISON are raising these issues with employers specifically, if you are concerned about your workplace please contact us.

Pay campaign for local government

The trade unions put in a claim for 10% pay increase and an extra days holiday a year for local government. This was rejected by the employers who came back with a 275% pay increase and an increase on the basic green book leave entitlement from 21 to 22 days but with no corresponding increase in the long service leave so effectively it meant bringing forward one of the days previously awarded at five years’ service. The unions are campaigning against this and demanding more for wages and on holiday as our members have not had a pay rise above inflation for over a decade now.

International Workers Memorial Day

Thanks to everyone who sent in pictures, they are on the website https://lambeth-unison.org/2020/05/02/international-workers-memorial-day/

Stay safe everyone and please get in touch if any issues arise

Protests at Olive Morris House over demolition

Lambeth Council have decided to start the demolition of Olive Morris House during the pandemic.

Many people are concerned that this isn’t he time to to be moving ahead with a demolition.

The petition to stop it has over 1,000 signatures – report on the recent protest is in Brixton Buzz http://www.brixtonbuzz.com/2020/04/in-photos-a-socially-distanced-protest-against-the-demolition-of-olive-morris-house-during-the-coronavirus-crisis-fri-24th-april-2020/