Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Time for Action at Notting Hill Housing Trust – Strike Ballot Result

UNISON members at Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT) have voted in favour of strike action. The ballot result was declared on 22 February 2010 and follows a long process of trying to negotiate with the employer. On a 56.6% turnout, 93.5% of UNISON members voted to strike. UNISON is the leading union representing workers employed in Housing Associations. In London, these UNISON members are part of a dedicated Housing Associations Branch.

During the ballot period, UNISON members at NHHT have received messages of support from UNISON members in other London housing associations, other UNISON branches and other unions. In addition delegations of NHHT UNISON members will be meeting with local politicians, both councillors and MPs. A letter writing campaign to NHHT Chief Executive (Kate Davies) has also taken place.
UNISON has written to the Tenant Services Agency and the Homes and Communities Agency to express its concern about the employer’s high handed attitude to its work force.

Messages of support can be sent to activists@unisonhablondon.org and to http://twitter.com/unisonhousing.

The ballot for strike action has arisen from NHHT imposing cuts to terms and conditions of employment which will have a negative effect on female staff with caring responsibilities (reducing carers’ leave and ending flexi-time). The employer’s own equality impact assessment has acknowledged this but the changes are going ahead anyway. Carers’ leave cost the organisation £30,000 in 2008 which is a small fraction of the Chief Executive’s current salary. Her most recently published salary is £165,868 (2008/2009) which was a 7% increase on the previous year and included a bonus of just under £11,000.

Strike action is very much the last resort. The NHHT Board has previously ignored a 300+ signature petition from staff, a 95% consultative ballot vote in favour of further action by UNISON members and a request to meet with ACAS. There does not appear to be any desire to negotiate by the employer.

Unison Housing Associations Branch Secretary, Mary Powell states “It is highly unusual for UNISON members in London housing associations to take industrial action, however NHHT has left its staff with little choice. The ballot result is clear. The Branch and its wider membership are four square behind UNISON members at NHHT. The employer does still however have an opportunity to return to the negotiating table so long as they genuinely want to reach an agreement”

UNISON HA Branch Meeting - Support for members at Notting Hill

Members at the branch annual general meeting sent a message of support and solidarity to Notting Hill members. Speaker Richard McEwan from Tower Hamlets UCU inspired members with his description of the successful campaign against cuts to services and jobs at Tower Hamlets college.

Members held a mass meeting and walked out at the start of a three month campaign to prevent job cuts and protect services. Over 1000 people took part in a demonstration in support of the action. Union members contacted local community organisations and ran a co-ordinated escalating action. The campaign was boosted by the messages of support and the generosity of the local community and other trade union branches

Friday, 19 February 2010

Flexi Time Lowers Stress

Read here for a piece by the Northern Echo on how a study by Durham University demonstrates the positive effects of flexible working.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Attacks on terms and conditions at Notting Hill Housing

UNISON members at Notting Hill Housing Trust are now voting on INDUSTRIAL ACTION. They need your support.

Management has IMPOSED CUTS to flexitime and carers’ leave which will have most effect on female staff with caring responsibilities. Further reductions in terms and conditions include a reduction in salary protection following re-organisation and cuts to relocation expenses. This is at a time when re-organisation and office relocation are anticipated.

Management has REFUSED TO NEGOTIATE WITH UNISON, despite a petition signed by over 300 staff. They have also REFUSED TO WORK WITH ACAS. Now UNISON is balloting members on industrial action. Already members have voted in a consultative ballot – 95% in favour of further action.

In 2009 Kate Davies, Chief Executive at Notting Hill Housing Trust, chaired a group of “experts” who produced a report for Conservative Party think tank the Centre for Social Justice. This body is headed by Iain Duncan Smith and supported by David Cameron. The report recommended ending secure and assured tenancies.

Notting Hill Housing Trust Chairman Paul Hodgkinson is also a Trustee of Parenting UK which promotes family friendly policies. This is ironic considering the family unfriendly policies being imposed on his staff at Notting Hill.

UNISON members must make a stand at Notting Hill Housing Trust – other housing associations and housing support services in London are also threatening to impose cuts to terms and conditions e.g. increasing the working week whilst freezing salaries, representing real terms pay cuts.

Read here for a message of support from popular Labour Party blogger and activist John Grey
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