The Socialist 11 June 2014 |
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"I'm Bryan": Housing workers strike against rep suspension
A Unite housing workers' branch officer
Between 6 and 9 June, commuters on Camden's Chalk Farm Road were treated to the familiar sight of union members with Unite flags and placards outside One Housing Group (OHG) headquarters. This time round, members were protesting about the suspension and disciplinary action against lead convenor Bryan Kennedy.
Bryan was allegedly suspended over performance issues, although none of the allegations warrant his removal from the workplace. Bryan's treatment is also far harsher than that of others accused of underperformance within OHG.
Unite housing workers' branch and Unite members at OHG believe the suspension is motivated solely by management's growing fear of the union, and desire to prevent Bryan's highly effective union organising.
On previous occasions, strike action was a response to frontline staff pay cuts of around £8,000 per year, and other attacks on terms and conditions.
Unite members led by Bryan and a team of reps, successfully forced the employer into a retreat on several key proposals.
One Housing, one setting
Yet it appears OHG has one setting: attack. This is perhaps not surprising from an organisation that considers nothing wrong with slashing the wages of frontline staff, or illegally refusing to pay the minimum wage to essential overnight care despite a recent law change which requires it to do so.
OHG amassed surpluses of £36 million in 2013 (up from £13 million in 2012), and has given CEO Mick Sweeney a pay increase of £31,000 then publicly denied doing so.
The OHG leadership's behaviour is maverick and divorced from reality. They have become indifferent to their staff, and by extension their tenants and service users.
It is a brutal commercialisation of an organisation that was established to assist the homeless and vulnerable; a social purpose that many dedicated, hard-working, but increasingly overworked, underpaid, and ill-treated staff still support, despite the naked corporate greed of their most senior management team.
The Unite housing workers' branch is dedicated to supporting the 'I'm Bryan' campaign, so named because an injury to Bryan is an injury to all reps. We will continue to exploit all our industrial, organising, political and campaigning strength to ensure that OHG gets no peace until it treats all its staff with the dignity and respect they deserve.