Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Contribution on Motion 43 - Housing debate

(I thought I will post this - Note on the day because conference was running out of time we had to cut it down to 2 minutes from 3)

Chair (vice-president), Conference - John Gray, London Housing Association Branch – speaking in favour of motion 43 as amended.

Conference – I think it was the Labour Party Cabinet minister, Tony Crosland, who 40 years ago, described the way that housing finance in this country was organised as a “dogs dinner”. Little has fundamentally changed since, so I am sure that everyone will welcome the long overdue review of the HRA.

I spoke to conference yesterday about the rubbish pay and conditions that many (not all) housing association staff experience. After speaking at the packed housing lunchtime fringe I found out that While UNISON members in housing associations earn far more on average than non-members, some 25% earn less than £17,000 per year; some earn less than £6 per hour; 20% have either no occupational pension or a poor quality money purchase scheme; 1 in 6 have had no training in the last 12 months! So the branch will be pleased that this motion is proposing some action on this.

One of the chief reasons for this poor pay is that many HA either do not have a JE (I repeat no not have a JE scheme or it is grossly inadequate as well as being potentially discriminative. Most schemes have no input at all from staff side representatives. This is not only a basic TU concern but also a good governance issues. Since for fairly obvious reasons it is vital that the pay of management is properly and fairly arrived at. So we should support the call for a national JE scheme for Housing association staff.

I also support the recent moves by the Labour Government to block HA’s becoming Public Limited Companies with shares quoted on the stock exchange. A small number of CEO in large HA have been quoted in the housing press as saying they would do it if they could. So it is important that we keep a sharp on this. God forbid if there is a change of government.

Finally, conference what was also pointed out at the housing fringe yesterday, you will not make any sustainable headway in dealing with education, health, environment, child poverty, climate change, community cohesion or community safety unless you make housing policy part of it. This is what I call “joined up” thinking.

Conference – please support this motion.

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