Please find below the minutes of our May meeting. Our next meeting will be held on Wednesday 3 June at 7.30 p.m., at the CB2 Bistro, Norfolk Street, Cambridge CB1 2LD.
Cambridge People's Assembly, 6 May 2015
- Election of a chair
- Minutes and matters arising
- Secretary's report
- Treasurer's report
- People's Question Time in Cambridge, 9 or 11 June
- Transport to national demonstration, 20 June
- No TTIP campaign
- NHS campaigns
- Library campaigns
- Living Wage action
- Other business and announcements
- Date of next meeting
The venue was the CB2 Bistro basement, at 7.30 p.m. Present were Emma, Hilary, Laura, Maud, Martin B., Neil, Richard W., Simon, Steve, and Stuart (acting chair). Names may have been changed.
The meeting accepted the draft agenda which had been circulated.
Emma was elected to the constitutional office of chair. By the group's previous agreement, the functions of the chair in meetings would rotate. Stuart was elected as chair of the present meeting.
Apologies were received from Kamila and Olivier.
Richard had previously submitted a correction to item 11 in the minutes for April, which said that 'staff directly employed by [John Lewis] were paid at least the Living Wage, but not its [agency] cleaners'. This was inaccurate: John Lewis was not a Living Wage employer, but argued that taking into account the benefits of partnership, staff were at least as well remunerated. The minutes would be corrected.
Richard also suggested that the title and union of Alberto Durango, general secretary of the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB), were mistaken in the same item. Neil doubted this – by an oversight no copy of the minutes was to hand – but promised to check. (Note: the minutes were found to be accurate.)
Neil reported that the Cambridge People's Assembly (CPA) had 170 subscribers to its mailing list (unchanged from last month), while 295 Facebook users liked it (unchanged from last month) and 607 Twitter users followed it (last month 588). It had 21 members (last month 19).
Maud reported a collection of £33.46 at the April meeting, and a balance of £474.95.
Sam Fairbairn, national secretary of the People's Assembly, had suggested to Steve that a People's Question Time could be held in Cambridge to mobilize people for the CPA coach to the national demonstration on Saturday 20 June. Steve explained that this would be an event on the model of the BBC programme, which had already been held in other cities; these events had focused on the People's Manifesto publication, but the same issues would still be pressing after the election on 7 May, with the same austerity agenda likely in place. Sam had suggested two panel speakers, a well-known comedian and a pressure group campaigner, and might be able to attend himself. There could also be local panel speakers.
The meeting welcomed the idea and agreed to hold the event on Thursday 11 June. Maud could provide a list of venues with their contact details, and she and Hilary would start making enquiries. Steve would check that date with Sam's prospective speakers. Maud raised the need for a press release, perhaps covering both the 11 June People's Question Time and the 20 June coach. Steve agreed. He suggested creating a Facebook event for both as soon as the time, venue, and speakers for the Question Time event were confirmed; a press release could be organized later. Stuart offered to publicize the event at The Cambridge Commons' (TCC) conference on 6 June.
The group still needed funds for the planned hire of a coach from Cambridge. Steve would prepare an appeal letter and model motion, and Emma, Martin, Maud, Neil, and Steve would approach different union organizations.
Maud remembered that allowing people to book places on last year's coach by joining the Facebook event created for it had not worked well: people would join but later leave, and it was hard to keep up with their intentions. The meeting agreed with her suggestion that, although there should be a Facebook event, booking should be by e-mail only. Steve had previously volunteered to create the Facebook event; Neil as secretary would keep a passenger list and a corresponding mailing list.
Maud noted that the group needed a street stall and a leaflet to recruit passengers. She asked whether it was too late to book a stall at Strawberry Fair on 6 June; if so, the group could ask to share one with a sympathetic organization. Martin would try to arrange a stall. Steve for one would be able to attend Strawberry Fair.
Neil and Hilary reported on the Global Day of Action against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal on Saturday 18 April. In Cambridge the action had been on a miniature scale: Aidan from the Cambridge branch of Global Justice Now had targeted bus queues to collect 14 new signatures to the CPA's petition, and Neil had distributed Global Justice Now postcards on TTIP in Market Square.
On the same day Hilary had joined about 500 others at the demonstration on Shepherd's Bush Common, London, where John Hilary (War on Want), Guy Taylor (Global Justice Now), and the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood had spoken against the deal. After speeches the demonstration had divided into groups to discuss campaigning, then the groups had gone into the streets of Shepherd's Bush to do just that. A publicity stunt had been held outside a KFC restaurant, with protestors dressed as chemical workers dunking rubber chickens in pretended chlorine – a reference to the collapse in product standards which would be one effect of TTIP. (In the US poultry industry, carcasses are washed in chlorine to kill germs. The European norm is prevention rather than chemical cure.)
Hilary noted there had been an item on TTIP on the BBC Radio 4 consumer programme, 'You and Yours'. However Steve believed awareness remained generally low. He had recently attended the conference of the Communication Workers' Union, where some of the activists to whom he had spoken did not know about the deal.
Maud suggested that an item for the July meeting could be to try to organize another meeting on TTIP, with a number of speakers. The group could also try to get the huge No TTIP campaign banner to Cambridge.
Steve reported that the Seven Days to Save the NHS campaign had been launched with a 'die-in' outside the Department of Health, aided by a Hollywood make-up artist. A recall conference of the People's Convention for the NHS would be held in October in Manchester, following the government's decision to devolve Greater Manchester's health budget. Locally, the Hands Off Hinchingbrooke campaign event had held a screening of the Sell-Off film in Huntingdon on 29 April.
Emma reported that the County Council had installed in Cambridge Central Library a display promoting its desired privatization of most of the third floor, including a comments book which library users were filling with vehement protest. That night a public meeting was being held at the library as part of the consultation apparently forced by the earlier protest and petition; last night a campaign meeting had been held. Ideas discussed included printing a leaflet, booking space on the poster boards in the library to counter the council's display, and regular occupations. The writing of a leaflet was already under way.
Neil had been at the campaign meeting with Emma and urged others to get involved. He believed there was a risk that the campaign would drift into protesting the failings of the process, and so effectively arguing for a more transparent, more profitable privatization. Its focus had to be on the outcome, the unacceptable fact of privatization. Emma agreed this had seemed a risk.
Richard had circulated a written report on this lobby of John Lewis customers, which he had organized as part of the campaign to help agency cleaners at the department store win the Living Wage.
Around fifteen people had joined the lobby, leafleting, talking to shoppers, and signing them up directly to the campaign petition on a tablet. Alberto Durango, general secretary of the IWGB union, and four cleaners and IWGB members from the John Lewis store on Oxford Street in London, came to give their support, as did the three Cambridge parliamentary candidates who supported the Living Wage: Julian Huppert (Liberal Democrats), Rupert Read (Green Party), and Daniel Zeichner (Labour Party).
Richard reported a very good response from shoppers.
I was struck by how many people turned and listened when I spoke on the megaphone. Most people put their heads down and scurry along when they hear any sort of political issue on a loudhailer!
There were no fixed plans for future action, but the campaign hoped in the future to hold a similar lobby at Little Waitrose on Fitzroy Street, and possibly another at John Lewis on Downing Street. Richard thanked the CPA members who had attended or promoted the lobby.
Stuart had earlier announced the forthcoming publication of TCC's fairness review of Cambridge, Wealth and Want, and an open evening on the group's work on Thursday 28 May, particularly for members of Compass, Unlock Democracy, and the Fabian Society, but others too. This would be held at the Friends' Meeting House, 12 Jesus Lane, Cambridge CB5 8BA.
Simon announced that the Campaign Against Climate Change would hold its annual general meeting on Saturday 6 June. He also announced that there would be a protest at the opening of the public examination of the A14 road development scheme in Huntingdon on Wednesday 13 May.
Maud suggested an item for the next meeting: a campaign on housing was under way in Cambridge, led by Unite the Union, which the CPA had to discuss supporting.
Hilary had previously booked a table in the CB2 Bistro library for the usual first Wednesday of the month, Wednesday 3 June, at 7.30 p.m. She had also booked a table in the library for July, then the basement room for August, September, and October.