Sunday, April 1, 2012

People Before Profit embarrassment

With Gorgeous George and the Respect Party in the news, one might be led to ponder what Lewisham's own version of real left politics, People Before Profit, might be up to.

Recently they've made some news for participating in the taking possession of properties owned by Lewisham council that were "earmarked for 'disposal' " (auctioned off at less than their market value), and housing homeless families in them. See the story here (PBP's website), here or here. By 'participating in' we mean John Hamilton has been publicising these activities, but many involved are activists who are not, as it were, PBP party members. Nevertheless there is a collective aim for the common good.

But what is this? Strange goings on in Deptford...PBP's flagship cafe Come The Revolution ("the brainchild of PBP campaigner Ray Woolford") has closed. Is the lease up? Maybe, but no word from Woolford, he's out of town.

Meanwhile, the cafe's workers, who, from PBP's publicity would appear to be the happiest in the world ("the work is more interesting and the pay is better than where I was in my last job, and you feel you're doing something for the community"), are now fighting their boss, Woolford, after he sacked them for unionising for better pay and conditions.

Although the cafe has been popular for some, its location has not been ideal for pulling in the casual punter. Some have been sceptical about the coupling of leftist politics with an estate agents (Housemartins, run by Woolford). According to the Facebook page set up by the cafe workers, they were afraid Woolford would close the cafe, only to reopen it with new staff. Lack of clarity about who actually owns the building seems to have contributed to paranoia after a member of staff who occupied a flat above the cafe was evicted by an untraceable company – more grist to the mill for those involved.

But planning permission has been in for this building for quite some time by the owners, P Logan (as in Logan's Chemists who had the shop front previously) to "demolish the existing building fronting" as part of a plan to (re-)construct a 5-storey building (see the application DC/11/78237/X, still not decided). Woolford's lease was obviously tenuous and the cafe's (and the workers') future was never secure. Of course, this is no excuse to pay your staff poor wages but imagine if all of the businesses on the high street had to conform to union standards.

Unite (Britain's largest Trade Union and already in the news) are supporting the workers and co-hosted a meeting on Friday night at the Amersham Arms in order to demand reinstatement without penalty (as well as minimum hours contracts and union approved health & safety training).

Neither Woolford or Hamilton were in attendance, but George Hallam (PBP's rep in Feltham) came to smooth ruffled feathers and perhaps distance PBP from Ray Woolford's misadventures. A further meeting is planned for early next week.

See also

1 comment:

  1. Just to confirm, Come the Revolution cafe is supported by LPBP but the venture is a soley owned run and managed enterprise by Ray Woolford. LPBP are seeking to encourage Ray to publish his accounts on his blog to show that the project just did not produce a surplus and Ray's and the workers best efforts and hard work was just not able to make a go of it.