Lewisham says “Let’s Turn Up The Heat” In British Gas Dispute As Gas Workers Return To Their Livesey Hall

Cllr Alan Hall joined British Gas workers, local trade unionists and campaigners outside the historic gas workers’ Livesey Hall in Bell Green, Lower Sydenham. He said: “Let’s turn up the heat on British Gas.” The Livesey Memorial Hall was built in the north-west corner of the South Suburban Gas Company’s principal site at Bell Green, which in 1911 employed 380 men. Much of the building work was carried out by the Gas Company workers. It is a Grade II Listed Historic landmark building. The separately Grade II Listed War Memorial commemorates those who died in the World Wars from the gas works.

Cllr Alan Hall says: “Let’s turn up the heat on British Gas”

This marked the start of a fresh four day strike on Friday 29 until Monday 1 February over ‘fire and rehire’ imposed pay cuts 15% below agreed rates and other adverse changes to their terms and conditions of work.

Speaking to Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng, Labour MP Stephen Doughty said he met with Centrica CEO Chris O’Shea in September, who told him the company has not issued s188 notices to staff.

Earlier that day, The Morning Star reported that Chris O’Shea, the boss of British Gas told Stephen Doughty MP that the company had not issued redundancy notices when they had.

Labour asking the questions
Solidarity from Lewisham TUC

In fact, Centrica had issued the s188 notices – essentially a legal letter that gives advance notice that an employer intends to dismiss staff – to its entire UK workforce in July, before negotiations had even started.

Unison represent some staff at Centrica, they say: “As a business Centrica has wasted billions of pounds over the past decade and continued during that time to make massive payments to investors. Its decline is not sudden and yet the business has under the smoke screen of an international pandemic decided opportunistically to attack its own loyal workforce and the trade unions that will defend the workforce. This is disgraceful behaviour. We have asked the business to rescind the S188 notice pending negotiations but they have rejected this request.”

GMB national secretary Justin Bowden said: “Either Chris O’Shea was in denial about the dysfunctional way he’s running the business, or he deliberately lied to a Member of Parliament representing their constituents. ”

“The eight days of strikes so far this month, provoked by a profitable British Gas, have led to a repair backlog of more than 150,000 homes, with 200,000 routine annual boiler service visits cancelled so far this month.”

Cllr Alan Hall has written to Centrica Board members demanding that they use their positions to “think again” and “reign in” the Chief Executive Officer.

Full Text below.

Dear Centrica Board Member,

I am writing to you today because I’m incredibly concerned about what I’m seeing in the newspapers and social media about how British Gas is treating its workforce.

British Gas is an institution. It’s a respected company and household name with millions of customers. It is incredibly disappointing to see that you intend to fire and rehire your employees on worse terms and conditions, and this in the middle of a global pandemic.

As Board members you are well rewarded, yet you are asking loyal and hardworking British Gas employees to add another 5.5-8 hours of unpaid work and travel to their working weeks. Many of your employees have children and families and caring responsibilities.

For a company that used to be seen as a great place to work, it’s understandable to see the anger from staff who want to protect their precious family time. For the sake of your own reputation, it’s time you reined in your out-of-control CEO Chris O’Shea.

I see that GMB – the union for British Gas workers – has been willing to negotiate and come to talks with you, but that you won’t take the threat of fire and rehire off the table – that hardly strikes me as an employer negotiating in good faith.

British Gas needs to think again. This is not how a reputable company should treat its workforce. It’s disgraceful.

As a Board member you have the ability to change things. Please use your position to do the right thing for hardworking British Gas employees.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall

Report in the Newsshopper is here

Report in South London Press is here

The Story Of The Racquet At The Bridge

The future of The Bridge Leisure Centre in Lower Sydenham looks bleak. Lewisham Council’s Mayor and cabinet approved plans not to reopen the leisure centre. The report added that the site has been running at losses of over £400,000 for many years although an element of the financial losses relate to the deterioration in the quality of the building and service standards in recent years.

The meeting heard that The Bridge was originally a private sports and social club and that its layout was not designed to be a public leisure centre.

Mayor & cabinet meeting, Lewisham Council discusses The Bridge at 29 mins

The history of The Bridge and the playing fields include a time when the site was a British Petroleum – BP – employees leisure club known as the Britannic House Sports Ground. In fact, in 1932, Lensbury Club (Shell) and Britannic House (the BP Club in Sydenham) came together as the ‘Lensbury and Britannic House Associated Clubs’. There was a separation of the Clubs by the two companies in 1962, however, Shell and BP employees retained the right to be members of both. These clubs had combined memberships over 5,000 people.

According to newspaper reports at the time, the 1970 British Open Women’s squash championship was held at The Bridge and won by Australia’s Heather McKay. Of course, at this time it could only be Heather on top. She ranks among the greatest players in the history of squash. She dominated the women’s game in the 1960s and 1970s, winning 16 consecutive British Open titles between 1962 and 1977. In 2000 she was given the title ‘Legend of Australian Sport’.

Many have commented on how could such an extraordinary player and perhaps the world’s most successful athlete been so starved of publicity? No one else remained unbeaten for 19 years – as she did between 1962 and her retirement in1981. No one else beat her challengers so comprehensively.

Also, Heather played hockey, representing Australia in 1967 and 1971. More recently, she has taken up tennis, winning the world veteran’s tennis championships. A true talent.

Meanwhile, The Bridge Leisure Centre was brought by Lewisham Council in 2019 after several years leasing the building. What is to become of the site and playing fields is unknown. Local residents have started to petition the local Council saying that it is a much needed local leisure centre supporting our community for fitness and mental wellbeing. No-one disagrees that it is well used.

A petition has been started by local residents to “Save The Bridge”
Credit Coventry Telegraph and BNA
Heather McKay MBE

Councillor Alan Hall has asked that Lewisham Council contact England Squash, the English national governing body for the sport. He asked a formal Question at the full Council meeting on 20th January 2021 about the ownership of the Bridge and managed to ask this as an oral supplementary question.

The Cabinet Member responsible said: “He believed that the Council had undertaken in depth research but I am more than happy to take that forward.”

A spokesperson for England Squash said: “Sorry to hear that the council are proposing to close the Bridge Leisure Centre.”

“The squash finder they mention [in the Mayor & Cabinet report asking for permission to close the Bridge] is just this page of our website. In these situations we can provide a facility report which details the level of provision relative to the population size and demonstrates the impact of any loss of courts if that would help with these discussions locally.”

Lewisham Music’s World Premiere at the Royal Festival Hall

World Premiere of Endurance a piece celebrating Ernest Shackleton’s antarctic expedition in 1914 1916

Over 1200 Lewisham children descended on the Royal Festival Hall for the third Lewisham Music’s 2019 Summer Gala at the South Bank Centre on Thursday, 27th June 2019.

Lewisham Music is an independent charity that was spun out of Lewisham Council’s music service,  they will be moving into the Grade II Fellowship Inn in Bellingham shortly.

It is the perfect venue to showcase south London’s future and talented young people.  The ‘People’s Palace‘ – the RFH was described in 1951 Festival of Britain as “a people’s palace of welfare state democracy in its pure form”.

The programme included the full range of Lewisham’s schools. First up was the Lewisham Open Orchestra of Greenvale School and Bonus Pastor Catholic College. They gave a spirited redention of The reason i’m human.

Sedgehill School’s acclaimed Vocalize performed two pieces Nobody and Diamonds. They are accomplished singers and their Director, Andy Gilbert never fails to make them shine.

 

The Prendergast School Chamber Choir and Orchestra got the audience’s feet tapping with a Medley from Grease and This is me from The Greatest Showman.

The Lewisham Schools Brass Band and Concert Band is open to all Lewisham’s young musicians and as the website says:  “Not only does playing in the band improve music making, but it is also a rich learning environment for other personal and social skills including working and mixing with other children and young people from different schools and communities”. They sent us on a latin journey with La Bombonera, Mambo from West Side Story and Soul Bossa Nova.

The show stopping Rathfern Primary School West African Drummers brought the Royal Festival Hall to its feet with the crescendo drumming of Moribayassa. The joy of music was there for all to hear and see.

After a short interval, the massed choirs of Lewisham assembled onto the famous stage for the world premiere of a brand new vocal work Endurance composed by James Redwood and Hazel Gould and conducted by Clare Caddick. This tells the story of Sydenham’s and Lewisham’s own explorer Ernest Shackelton and the south polar expedition in 1914-16 where the Endurance sank but no lives were lost. However, lesser known is that Shackelton was “addicted to playing truant from school, and we may
assume that he was versed in the art of plausible excuses both at school and at home.”

Have a listen to Sail away my boys – this will blow you away:

This piece is a truly inspirational work. It tells an incredible story of human endeavour and exploration over adversity. The chorus of young people who play the crew and the world who looked on, they are still captivated and energised by this, more than 100 years later. History and music together can always make a difference.