Friday, 17 September 2010

A busy week - strikes, book launches and demos

It has been a busy week on several fronts. On Monday I chaired my first meeting of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, with an invited speaker from the GMB union whose Patient Transport drivers in South London are due to take industrial action next week. With the Head of Human Resources of the Ambulance Service present, he stated that the new company about to take the Patient Transport contract for the South London NHS Trust, had a long catalogue of failed companies behind them and were being pursued by the Revenue and Customs. Dave Powis, the shop steward, stated that the Savoy Cars vehicles were less well equipped than the LAS ones and that his colleagues were genuinely worried about patient safety. The LAS replied that they were taking legal advice on the issue of the staff transfers so could not say too much but that they were determined that all staff being transferred under TUPE (transfer of undertakings) would receive their legal employment rights and terms and conditions.

Since the meeting I have been in contact with the GMB and have received yesterday an article from Private Eye which is most concerning and which I intend to bring to the attention of the NHS and the public, but more of that anon.

On Tuesday I attended the book launch of 'Green Left and the rise of Ecosocialism' at the Venezuelan embassy with author Derek Wall, Hugo Blanco from Peru and Labour MP and leftwinger Jeremy Corbyn. A video of the event is available here on the Green Left blog. The event was well attended and included some Latin Americans. It also gave me a chance to meet people whom I had not seen in some time including my friend, fellow Green Left member and Kent publican Sarah Farrow, who had travelled up to London for the occasion. I also had not seen Derek for some time and he seemed in very good spirits after conference and the Deputy Leader election etc. I also saw the legendary Hugo Blanco for the first time and must pay tribute to his son Oscar for his excellent translation from the Spanish.

I managed to get a night off for good behaviour on Wednesday, having worked during the day (yes I am one of the new legion of part time workers) but had to deal with some of the issues arising from the Patient Forum meeting on Monday. One of these is that the Royal College of Art is holding a display open to the public about the design of a new ambulance for London and two Forum members are serving on the consultation team. The exhibition is open to members of the public and I hope that some will attend other than Forum members. Details are below.

You are welcome to attend a less in depth evaluation of the new design on Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th September.

Location: Royal College of Art, Helen Hamlyn Centre, Kensington Gore, SW7 2EU

Time: 10:00 – 16:00

The project group have redesigned the inside of an ambulance and created a mock up of it for people to look at. They also have a working wall and a computer simulation for people to try. You will then be asked to complete a questionnaire and give your opinion on things such as seating and comfort, lighting, privacy issues, access/egress issues, side loading v back tail lift loading, ease of access for wheelchairs, infection control, cleanliness and use of technology.

Please note - this is open to everyone to attend.

Then last night together with other members of Lambeth Green Party and activists from the UNITE and UNISON unions and various Left activists, I took part in a protest against the privatisation of the pathology lab at Kings College Hospital, outside the AGM of the King's College Hospital NHS Trust. The Trust is about to hand over control of the lab to Serco, a private company now bidding to hive off large sections of the NHS. The UNITE members working in the lab are currrently balloting over strike action and we heard that the staff at Guy's and St Thomas Hospital, where Serco already control some facilities, are now balloting for strike action. I read an article some weeks ago in the Financial Times stating that Serco were licking their lips and hoping to take over large contracts in the NHS due to the Health White Paper which Andrew Lansley had produced. George Graham from Lambeth Greens will be writing a piece about this for our newsletter and took a photo of us at the demo.

This morning I met Andrew Burgin, acting Chair of the Coalition of Resistance, to discuss actions around the European Day of Action against the Cuts on September 29th. In the interim, I have been dealing with some issues arising from my membership of the international committee, including a meeting with the Green Party delegates who will be travelling to the European Green Party Council meeting in Estonia later in the month.

Tomorrow I have the Steering Committee of Stop the War Coalition which is going to take up most of the day. An activist's work is never done!

Finally, an interesting view on Greens and the Labour Party from Tribune magazine with an honourable mention of Green Left.

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