Today is the AGM of my branch (12-2pm and 6-8pm at the UNISON Centre, London) and this is my contribution to our annual report. Picture of 2016 Branch Executive.
"2016 was a traumatic year for politics generally and for social housing and trade unions in particular. Attacks by the Conservative government on trade unions were seen off in part by united and targeted campaigning and protests.
The attempt to end social housing by withdrawing all grants for social rent, the introduction of the tenants “pay to stay” tax and the attempt to make “right to buy” in our sector compulsory has also so far failed even though we can expect the Government will come back again for the kill.
The branch must be prepared to continue to lobby and campaign against the implementation of the Housing Act and the proposals outlined in the recent Housing White Paper to make cuts to benefit for care and supporting housing projects and schemes.
The housing association world has experienced rapid change following the rise of the “mega mergers”. Huge existing associations are merging with each over to form even bigger
groups. While some mergers have failed due to “cultural differences” others have gone ahead with more likely to follow. Staff (and residents) can expect challenges ahead and while not all change is bad it will be important that we build strong unionised workplaces to stand up for our members.
While I find it somewhat ironic that one of the justifications given at the time for stock transfers from councils to housing associations used to be that council housing departments were too large and remote. The new mega housing associations are, however, promising to build tens of thousands of much needed new homes.
Our members will be developing, letting, selling, allocating, managing and maintaining these new homes. Our jobs and our future terms and conditions is dependent on making new and old employers successful and effective. No organisation will be successful if they don’t have good relationships with staff and their union. Our UNISON branch wants to work in partnership with our employers whenever possible but we will take on the small minority of bad employers who don’t want to work with us.
Finally, may I thank all our stewards and workplace contacts for the magnificent and often unappreciated work you do for members. You are the first line of defence for members and are our unsung heroes.