The Socialist 30 July 2014 |
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Housing under attack: build the resistance
Reinstate Bryan Kennedy
Housing workers fight back
Bryan Kennedy, victimised Unite union rep at One Housing Group (OHG), was sacked by letter on 17 June having been suspended by his employer back in February. The Unite housing branch has rallied behind him, took strike action to demand the lifting of his suspension, and is now campaigning for his reinstatement.
Bryan spoke to the Socialist about his sacking:
"They [OHG] had a raft of allegations at the beginning, some of which were total nonsense - bullying, coercion, fraud, etc, for which there was no evidence.
I had an investigation meeting - six hours, no break, 178 questions! You'd get a better deal from the police!
They went through every email, every bit of paper in the office. After going through all of that, all the slanderous allegations, they've ended up with: 'leaving papers on my desk', 'not signing enough health and safety forms', and 'inflating people's performance scores' as I'm a key manager.
There's also the catch-all one they use for union reps in particular - 'breach of trust and confidence'.
They've got form on this sort of thing before. In 2009 they took over a big swathe of council properties in Tower Hamlets and they quite publicly sacked a Unison rep. Another Unison rep was sacked last year - one of the charges against him was 'papers on his desk'."
What is the background to your sacking?
"I first became a rep in March 2012. In April, they announced pay cuts for 300 staff.
I had worked in my post for ten years. I had studied the accounts in detail. I knew that they were making quite a healthy surplus. I made a very basic economic argument - the money was there.
Even with only 30 members, we managed to trigger a delay to the pay cut and the argument was effective.
We went out for eleven days of strike action. The union was growing, people were enjoying the idea of taking action. OHG came up with some proper money.
This was a process that started in April 2012 - we concluded in November 2013. They claimed it has cost them £2.3 million more than they expected to pay.
OHG do not like any independent voice within the organisation that they do not control - that can be a union rep or a tenants' organisation.
We protested outside the headquarters on 23 April. We protested outside the staff conference in May. We called strike days, 6-9 June.
I was getting some very shirty emails saying 'we don't like what the union is circulating'. They wanted the union to stop saying the suspension was union related. If you look at the hundreds of pages - I've never seen a disciplinary process like it, all sorts of crazy allegations - the union is mentioned all the way through it. Some things like petitions and other things that I've had no involvement in are included in the claims. They gave the game away. It's all union related. There was an absolute change of attitude with the pay dispute."