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Picket line poets are not a curse; they just express themselves in verse

Will no one rid us of this turbulent mayor?

PRESSURE IS mounting on Labour Councillors as Tower Hamlets Unison branch conducted its third set of three days of strike action in protest at management imposing new contracts on the Council workforce.

As strike action began, ten Labour Councillors signed an open letter calling on the Executive Mayor John Biggs to bring the Council back to the negotiating table. Cllr Puru Miah’s name was left off the letter that was published – so that makes 11 signatories. More recently, a similar letter, signed by Councillors from various London boroughs, was published in the Morning Star. Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis has written to the Executive Mayor – again calling for talks to resume.

Biggs experiencing the pain of electoral defeat in 2014.

Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer has condemned British Airways for sacking its staff and re-hiring them on new contracts with inferior terms and conditions – which is what Tower Hamlets Council has done to the Council workforce. Starmer has called on the Government to deprive British Airways of some of its allocation of landing slots at Heathrow, in a kind of retaliatory sanction. The two local Labour Parties in Tower Hamlets also oppose the Tower Rewards contracts and the Council’s enforcement of them.

The third set of three day strikes has again been well supported by staff who don’t understand why they were “heroes” three months ago but are now the villains, why they were clapped in April and slapped down in August. A lorry toured the borough, again plugging the message “It’s time to talk” – with a picket line poet echoing the sentiment.

The workers are angry – and the public are supportive. On Monday, 17th August – the third day in this batch of three day strikes – Unison will be holding a socially distanced picket line at Whitechapel from 11am. Members of the public are invited to join it to show their support. They are also encouraged to email or text Labour Councillors asking them to persuade the Mayor to bring the Council back to the negotiating table.

It’s becoming ever clear that John Biggs is the problem, not the solution. Councillors who previously assumed he knew what he was doing are becoming uneasy, and even some Cabinet members are saying privately that there is no obvious end-game here and aggravating staff to this extent is just not worth it.

Biggs himself has dropped heavy hints that he does not wish to be Labour’s candidate for Executive Mayor at the next election. If he comes out of the Tower Rewards saga with egg on his face, he can spend his retirement washing it off. He has nothing to lose. It’s the Labour Party, and particularly the current and next crop of Labour Councillors, who will be left to pick up the pieces.

•Read more about Tower Rewards:
Tower Rewards

•Read more about the Biggs Administration:
Executive Mayor John Biggs

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