Gazette letters: Winter, Homerton Hospital support staff, Brexit and run for cancer

Clissold Park in the winter. Picture: KEN MEARS

Clissold Park in the winter. Picture: KEN MEARS - Credit: Archant

We forget, or at least I do, that Christmas marks not the end of winter but the beginning. The Roman calendar’s New Year marks no arrival of new life – green shoots and floating butterflies, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

Rather we face a long, cold march to better days ahead.

Chased out of bed early morning by my partner's flu I headed out to explore the chilled, grey streets. Nowhere was more foreboding in the dawn light than the silent canopy of plane trees along the railway track bordering Hackney Downs. Tightly woven sinister branches ready to bend down and lift any passing dog walkers into their leafless silhouette.

Clissold was no brighter: empty branches save for some sparse chestnut remnants, clinging on to autumn, tiny wrecking balls suspended on twig-pendulums. Swinging down past the Castle climbing wall to head along Woodberry Downs a ripe smell betrayed the overnight downpour - somewhere a sewer disrupting the freshness of the early hours. De Beauvoir Square - all thorns, no roses; St John's Church gardens - green graveyard moss turned to brown; Regent's Canal - nippy birds fighting over winter's crumbs. It was indeed a bleak midwinter.

I am like this every winter, it seems - and I am not alone. The greyness, the darkness, the overwhelmingness of the noise and smell of traffic as people escape the outside world behind a steering wheel. Brighter, warmer days are coming, though - I just can't quite yet feel them in my bones.

Many thanks to the Gazette for highlighting the poor pay and conditions faced by vital support staff employed by the private contractor, ISS, at Homerton Hospital, write Lorna Solomon, Homerton UNISON and George Binette, Hackney North and Stoke Newington Labour Party Trade Union Liaison Officer.

The majority of these workers:

- Get up to 32p per hour less than the London Living Wage

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- Earn well below NHS pay rates, and

- Do not get occupational sick pay in Europe's most expensive city

No occupational sick pay means no pay at all for the first three days of sickness.

The implications for patient care are obvious. Low-paid staff cannot afford to take time off - they have to choose between being unable to pay the rent or coming in sick to a hospital environment!

UNISON was pleased to join the GMB-organised protest on Tuesday (December 17) and welcomed the support of Hackney mayor, Phil Glanville, who has joined MPs Diane Abbott and Meg Hillier in backing the demand for the London Living Wage as an absolute minimum for all staff at the Homerton.

UNISON, backed by Labour Party members, believes that direct employment by the NHS of these workers is ultimately best for both patients and the workers themselves. We should stop using public money to subsidise the profits of multinationals like ISS. Across the country there are several examples of returning such services to the NHS.

We call on Homerton Hospital management to do likewise.

Your readers can help by:

- Signing our petition

- Following us on Facebook: Fair Pay 4 ISS staff

- Sending messages of support to

Although a lot of people did not recognise it at the time, Britain changed for good on June 23, 2016. The election result on the December 12, 2019 confirmed this, writes Christopher Sills, Dunsmure Road, Stamford Hill.

This inevitably had profound consequences, which will become apparent over the next few weeks, including some that will surprise people.

The most urgent, is for the City to recognise they can no longer do things in the old way of doing what they like without considering the consequences.

Just as Boris Johnson was taking over, the board of Cobham PLC accepted a takeover from an American company, which has not yet been completed and therefore there is still time to stop it, on the grounds that today's conditions could not have been foreseen at the time. It is, therefore, essential that the directors and City institutions ask themselves the question, would they have done it today?

It is quite clear in my opinion that they would not. Therefore they should either insist on a higher price, or better still just abandon the takeover.

I fear it will not happen because of pride and, therefore, it is essential that the 109 new Conservative MP's make all concerned realise that the world has changed and the old ways are gone.

If you're looking to take up running or aiming for a new personal best and you want to do it whilst helping to save lives, then we've got a challenge for you, writes Sean Fletcher, presenter of Countryfile and Good Morning Britain, Bowel Cancer UK ambassador.

This January, Bowel Cancer UK is launching Challenge 2020. A virtual run you can take at your own pace.

For more information and to sign up visit