TELCO (The East London Citizens Organisation) yesterday celebrated 20 years of community organising and social justice campaigns to improve living standards through higher wages, increased employment opportunities, and pioneering affordable housing schemes. TELCO is the founder of the now national movement, Citizens UK.
TELCO’s 20 year highlights include:
- Founding and sustaining the Living Wage campaign with marches through London’s east end in 2001.
- Demanding as far back as 2004 that ‘The People’s Guarantees’ be incorporated into the London 2012 bid, guaranteeing Olympic Living Wage jobs, a pilot Community Land Trust, and an Olympic legacy of affordable family housing, construction skills training, and leisure and health facilities.
- Pioneering urban Community Land Trusts to secure truly affordable renting and home ownership for local people.
- Starting the Good Jobs Programme with apprenticeships for local 16-19 year olds, with nearly 100 so far benefitting from jobs or training through the programme.
- Creating the Refugee Welcome programme which began as ‘Strangers into Citizens’, with local communities helping refugees resettle into their area. This is now a Citizen UK national programme.
From marching with thousands of locals through the streets of the east end, pressing for the dignity of a Living Wage, to pioneering genuinely affordable housing via Community Land Trusts, TELCO has driven change nationwide. The model of community organising established by Telco, has been replicated throughout the UK, under the umbrella of the Citizens UK network.
Citizens UK executive director, Neil Jameson, said:
“TELCO brought together across east London, a wide and diverse grouping of congregations, schools, community groups, and local associations by reviving the tradition of community organising in the East End. This formed a new civic organisation that encouraged members to act as one on the issues and concerns they shared. One of the most pressing issues was the low pay of many local people who, although working full time, were trapped in poverty and poor housing. Their wages made it impossible to make ends meet. Poor housing too was and continues to be an issue around which diverse community and religious leaders feel able to organise together, with a shared vision for better provision.”
The efficacy of the organising is evident through TELCO’s shaping of London 2012 into the ‘First ethical Living Wage Olympics’. Their pursuit of ‘dignity through a Living Wage’ since 2001 has now spawned 3,000 accredited Living Wage employers, lifting more than 150,000 people out of poverty.
TELCO continues today supporting local communities and refugee families, and urging London’s wealthy football clubs to pay all staff the Living Wage. Its dogged pursuit of land for housing, and its use of innovative models to help accommodate lower paid Londoners, is bearing fruit through the Community Land Trust initiatives which are now spreading throughout the capital and elsewhere.
Emmanuel Gotora, Lead Organiser for TELCO said:
“In 2004, our members backed the bid for London 2012 on condition that it delivered a true legacy for the people of east London. Our demands ranged from paying everyone a London Living Wage to including a genuinely affordable housing legacy through the pilot Community Land Trust at St. Clements.
“TELCO’s legacy is one of local people coming together to make a difference in some of the most deprived areas of the city and winning change despite the odds, to create the change they wanted to see.”
Fr Michael Copps, priest at St Francis Church, has been part of the campaign since 2004. His Parish is barely a mile from the first Olympic development at Chobham Manor. He is now pushing to get started on a bigger Community Land Trust project on the East Wick and Sweetwater development. He said:
“We were asked to forgo CLT homes on Chobham Manor so we’re very pleased that the London Legacy Development Company have included a requirement that at least 20 homes on the Eastwick and Sweetwater neighbourhood should be CLT homes. Nevertheless, TELCO will continue to push for the first 100 CLT homes, as originally agreed by the Olympic authorities.”
CLT homes were once again at the forefront of the agenda at York Hall, where 1,000 delegates gathered for TELCO’s 20th Anniversary Assembly.
Keep an eye out for a more detailed report of the assembly, which will be shared in the next couple of days!