Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Notting Hill Housing Trust: Strike Action Back on!

Following last month’s successful strike UNISON had suspended any further action while trying patiently to negotiate and reach an agreement with Notting Hill Housing Group to resolve the dispute. Despite this act of good faith senior management are still refusing to allow UNISON to even speak to its Board and are still refusing any attempt at mediation via ACAS.

You do wonder what is the point of such nominally “independent” Boards when they are so scared of going against their CEO that they will not even listen to their employee representatives? What is wrong with having genuine two-way conversations? Isn’t it supposed to be “good to talk”? Why do they only listen to their Executive team's hugely expensive "remuneration consultants" - but not their own staff reps???

No wonder so many people believe that governance in our sector is so poor and pathetic. Many Housing Association Boards (not all) are accused of being undemocratic, unresponsive self perpetuating oligarchies controlled by over paid and under supervised CEO’s. Where there are no real or meaningful “checks and balances”.  These organisations will eventually fail. Unless this is changed we will face further “Project Jerusalem's".

The Chief Executive at Notting Hill, £192k per year, £16k per month, £3,692 per week, Kate Davies, has even gone on record that the savage cuts to family friendly policies and staff terms and conditions have not gone far enough!

To come out with such stuff while on such high pay in what is suppose to be a “not for profit” charity proves to me that these people think they are some sort of superior human beings or class above the rest of us mere low wage earning proles.

Check out further background of the dispute here, here and here. Lobbies will take place next week and further significant strike action is being organised.

Housing associations are supposed to be here for the long term. They produce financial plans and projections in great detail for the next 30 years. I don’t think that people understand that perhaps the biggest threat to the long term survival of these organisations is not getting wrong a possible 30 year projected cash flow.  The real risk is the lack of any meaningful or accountable governance in the organisation towards all its stakeholders.

I have always argued that organisations and management teams such as Notting Hill who treat their staff as rubbish will also treat their residents in the same dismissive manner and will have no long term future.

Some more info from UNISON press release:

1. UNISON’s Housing Association Branch represents approximately 3,500 members in the Greater London Region and the South East. UNISON Members at Notting Hill Housing Trust took successful strike action on 15th March.

2. NHHT manages 25,000 homes in London and the South East. According to its own website NHHT has an asset base of £1,317m and an annual turnover of £167m. Group reserves on 2008/2009 totalled £188m and its operating profit was £19.8m. In June 2009 the group absorbed 3 smaller BME housing associations – Presentation, Pathway and Croydon People’s.

3. 14% of staff took paid carers’ leave in 2008/09 at a total cost to the organisation of £40,000. Chief Executive, Kate Davies total pay and reward package for the year 2008 to 31March 2009 was £192,000.

4. Paul Hodgkinson is the Chair of NHHT’s Board. He is also a Trustee of Parenting UK, a national charity that sets the policy for parenting focus in the UK. Respect for cultural diversity and the different needs of men and women within the context of human rights for all, is one of Parenting UK’s key principles.
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