The Diary: John Street

Written By: John Street
Published: September 24, 2016 Last modified: October 25, 2016

Love for sale
Fancy a lunch with Theresa May at the upcoming Conservative Party in Birmingham? it will set you back £3,000 – the price per head under the shindig’s corporate business money-spinner. It will offer “an important opportunity to engage…” So much for her promise that her government will not be “driven by the interests of the privileged few”.

Police and thieves
Meanwhile the boys and girls in blue are raising a rumpus at the cost of policing the Tory love-fest. West Midlands Police are facing a £1.5m bill merely to plan operations for three Tory Party conferences, according to regional crime commissioner David Jamieson. He claimed it would cost about £500,000 a time this year and in 2018 and 2020. He has written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd to ask for a discussion about a “fairer arrangement”. Previously forces were reimbursed 85% of the operational costs plus planning costs, compensating police forces who should plan for a political party conference in the same way that they plan for other large-scale events for which they do not receive additional funding. In his letter, Jamieson said: “Making these events as safe as possible requires extensive planning by West Midlands Police. It is therefore troubling that the planning team, which began work last autumn, is costing approximately £460,000, which will not be recouped.” In 2014 when Birmingham last hosted the conference, the cost reached £520,000. At its peak, the conference police planning team will consist of three chief inspectors, five inspectors, eight sergeants, four PCs and four police staff. That does not, of course, include the numbers deployed on the ground.

The cost of loving
The cost of blacklisting compensation was revealed in the half-year results of contractor Carillion. They show a £10.5 million charge, “which represents the compensation and associated costs we expect to pay under The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme set up by eight UK companies for workers who have been impacted by use of the database vetting system operated by The Consulting Association”. Philip Green, chair of Carillion, passed no comment on the compensation pay-out in his statement accompanying the figures.

Pop goes the weasel
At Westminster all the niceties were observed upstairs when Keith Vaz stood down as chair of the home affairs select committee amid lurid allegations involving rent boys, washing machines and drugs, with grandees across the parties paying tribute to his parliamentary service. It was a different matter downstairs, among staff – secretaries, researchers, technicians, engineers and refreshment workers – who have had dealings with. When Vaz finally realised this was one scrape he couldn’t bluster his was through, there were “whoops of commiseration” in the canteens and watering holes.

Slave driver
The GMB general union has launched legal proceedings on behalf of three workers of private car hire firm Addison Lee who were sacked following a union protest in London in May. Lawyers have lodged a number of claims with arbitration service Acas, including unfair dismissal, detriment on grounds related to trade union activity and failure to pay the National Minimum Wage. The dismissals took place within hours of a static protest that saw private hire drivers block off Berkeley Square in London. GMB members, along with members of the United Addison Lee Drivers (UALD), were protesting against an increase in commission levels from Addison Lee and changes to terms and conditions for drivers. Chris Benson, head of employment at lawyers Leigh Day, said: “These three men were trained by Addison Lee, were required to work on standard terms which were dictated by Addison Lee and had to work to detailed practices, policies and procedures imposed by Addison Lee. They cannot then be sacked without notice or reason. Employers cannot be allowed to have all the financial benefits of employees and none of the responsibilities to these people’s livelihoods.” In April 2013, the firm was taken over by private equity giant Carlyle, which also owns the RAC, in a deal worth close to £300 million to its founders and shareholders, the Griffin family and the family of Lenny Foster.

Money, money, money
The 2015-16 reporting season for top companies quoted in the FTSE 350 index is drawing to an end, but the ratcheting up of the remuneration packages for top executives shows no sign of ending. Forty executives given packages of over £1 million a year in their company’s last financial period are on the latest listing, headed by Joel Lenoff, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of global payments provider Paysafe. His package came to £6.73 million last year (£129,346 a week). Philip Jansen, CEO of payments technology group Worldpay, takes fifth spot with £3.11m – though that only covers six months as the group prepared for flotation on the London Stock Exchange, so Jansen’s weekly equivalent is £119,538. Mile Roberts, chief executive of packaging group DS Smith, has a package worth £4.37m (£84,096 a week). Brian Cassin was promoted to CEO at credit rating agency Experian in July 2014 and now enjoys £3.59m (£69,077 a week). Chief executive Javed Ahmed’s 114.8% rise at Tate and Lyle,  takes him to £2.14m (£41,136 a week), but the top rise went to Andy Jones, chief financial officer at self-storage group Safestore, who saw his package grow two-and-a-half times to £1.46 m (£28,077 a week, which is more than the average full-time UK employee’s annual earnings).

Do you want to know a secret?
Daily Mail reports of Alan Johnson’s recent third wedding said that he “has rarely spoken of his private life”. In the next paragraph it reports that “his third memoir is soon to be released”. So what do they think is in the first two?

Another Green world
The 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) requires the government to appoint three members of the Health and Safety Executive after consulting organisations representing employees, and three members after consulting employers’ representatives. A little matter like the law, however, failed to stop work and pensions secretary Damien Green giving one of the employee representative seats to a person with no background representing workers. Step forward Susan Johnson, former chief executive of the Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, former chief executive of Northern Business Forum, and former director of food company Greggs. As TUC health and safety policy officer Hugh Robertson pointed out on the Stronger Unions blog, she is not from any trade union, she is not a health and safety activist or a safety representative, and she has not been nominated by any union body. Robertson blogged: “These are excellent qualifications for an employer’s representative, but there is not anything in her past that remotely qualifies her to speak for workers, yet here she is sitting on the HSE board representing employee interests.” The TUC believes the move is the latest in a series of government actions to silence the voices of working people on health and safety at work. Many of the joint industry groups that gave advice to the HSE have been disbanded. And the right of trade unions to nominate members to the board of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, which protects vulnerable workers in a number of UK industries such as agriculture and food processing and packaging, was abolished by the Con-Lib coalition government.

About John Street

John Street is Tribune’s diary columnist.