Friday, 18 July 2008

Supporting the park workers

On Wednesday and Thursday Lenton Recreation Ground was closed because of strike action by Unison, the trade union to which Dave, our groundsperson, and others working in Nottingham parks belong to, so the park was closed.

They went on strike because they had been offered a miserly pay rise of just 2.45%. As Unison says: 'Take inflation into account and it's a pay cut!'. Add in 10 years of below-inflation pay rises and average household bills rocketing £1,300 in the last year alone, so it's easy to understand why Dave and his colleagues supported the strike.

More than 500,000 union members took part in the strike, sending a clear message to their employers that they must improve their offer and show local government workers the respect they deserve. The mantra of the right-wing press and the Labour Government is that a pay increase for local government workers will make inflation worse. What a load of rubbish! Inflation is the result of the way in which Gordon Brown has allowed the banks and big business a free ride at public expense on the back of a property boom and cheap loans. When times are good they get all the profits, when times are bad, like now, they get subsidies to maintain their profits and high pay levels, whilst workers like Dave get pay cuts!

According to the Nottingham Evening Post, Nottingham City Council has paid off its Deputy Chief Executive, who earned £140,000 a year, with a sum of over £500,000, yet they can't find the money to give low paid staff a fair pay increase. Be it in Whitehall or Nottingham Council House there is one rule for the managers and another for the workers. The sad truth is that Dave and pensioners like myself have to continue supporting Labour leaders in thrall to big business both nationally and locally because the Tories and Liberals will treat low paid workers and pensioners even worse!

I hope that Unison's campaign is successful. It deserves to be.

On Wednesday out of nowhere a group of young men climbed over the park railings and spent two hours playing football. Most of them were wearing studded boots, which they brought with them in small cloth bags. It will be interesting to see if they turn up next week. I have a nasty suspicion that they knew the park was closed because of the Unison strike, so they decided to take advantage of the situation.

On Monday, Dave showed me one of the three young Elm trees in the park. As the picture shows, someone has stripped the bark from around the trunk, so the tree will die. They have done the same with a Cherry tree near the children's playground. What causes people to do such mindless vandalism? I could see Dave's eyes well up as he told me about the damage. He has put so much care and, yes, love into nurturing these trees, which were all planted last year, that it has hit him hard. I suspect that, at the moment, every morning when he arrives at the park Dave is wondering if more trees have been damaged.

The two days Lenton Recreation Ground were closed this week were about more than a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. It was also about decency and honesty and the kind of society we want to live in.

A policeman who was bitten, kicked and punched by a 30-strong mob after asking a 15-year-old girl to pick up her litter today spoke of how he feared for his life and had to call for emergency backup.

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