Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/522/3827
Trade union activist fights intimidation
Suzanne Muna, elected Staff Side secretary for the Housing Corporation trade unions, is facing unjustified disciplinary action that could lead to her being sacked. The complaint against Suzanne relates to a meeting last year in which she was representing a member over her working arrangements. The two managers present subsequently accused Suzanne of intimidating behaviour.
The managers themselves confirmed that Suzanne did not make any physical threat or verbal abuse, did not raise her voice and did not use inappropriate language. The managers claim relates entirely to their feeling 'intimidated' by being asked for an explanation of their treatment of the union member she was representing.
This attack on a key trade union representative is part of a general management assault on union organisation in the Housing Corporation (HC), the government agency that funds 'affordable housing' and regulates housing associations.
It is due to be replaced by two new agencies by April 2009, but this timetable is already being squeezed by the chief executive of the new investment agency who is trying to accelerate the process.
Union members at the Corporation are concerned that this will reduce the choices available to transferring staff.
Management has also served notice that it intends to make changes to the redundancy terms for those whose jobs are relocated. Union members view the disciplinary action as management attempts to batter and weaken the trade union representation so they have a free hand imposing their 'solutions'.
The threat to Suzanne is the most serious attack to date, but it is the culmination of increasingly vicious attacks.
Suzanne has the full support of HC trade union members. At a packed meeting on 15 February, members unanimously expressed "unqualified support" for the elected union representatives and opposed disciplinary action being used to victimise Suzanne and other representatives. The statement pointed out that management had skipped the first two stages of the disciplinary procedure (attempt at informal resolution and mediation) and had escalated the situation with unseemly haste to disciplinary level.
Members also criticised management for employing an external private investigator to work on the 'case'. On 23 February, Suzanne gave an update of the situation to the socialist: "I had a day's annual leave yesterday. At 6pm a courier knocked at my door demanding to know if I lived at this address but refusing to say why.
"When I confirmed that I did live here, it turned out he was only delivering a hard copy of a letter I already had electronically.
"No doubt the courier was sent because Human Resources suddenly realised that I was not in the office - the first letter regarding my hearing had been delivered to me at 5pm, also on a Friday.
"The manner of delivery and timing of such letters are surely intended to be intimidatory and stressful, and I haven't actually been found guilty of anything yet."
Suzanne Muna's disciplinary hearing will take place soon. We appeal to trade union activists and organisations urgently to send messages to the Housing Corporation protesting against this attempted victimisation.
- Drop the unjustified disciplinary charges against Suzanne Muna.
- End management harassment and bullying of trade union reps and members.
- Respect trade union rights and negotiating procedures.
- Honour existing redundancy agreements for HC workers who do not want relocation.
- Send messages to Housing Corporation Executives: Steven Douglas, chief executive, Steven.email@example.com Peter Marsh, deputy chief executive, Peter.firstname.lastname@example.org
Housing Corporation, Maple House, 149 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 7BN.
In The Socialist 27 February 2008:
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