Friday, March 25, 2016

Newham UNISON AGM 2016: Right to Buy and Pay to Stay

Last Friday I was a guest speaker at the UNISON Newham Local Government branch AGM in East Ham Town Hall. I spoke about the Housing Bill which is currently going through the House of Lords. I was there as a Housing Worker and UNISON Regional Council Officer.

Gloria Hanson (2nd left) and Kim Silver (3rd left) had been re-elected unopposed as Branch Secretary and Chair.

There was a really good presentation first by Thompson Solicitors (left) on "How to win a personal injury claim and how the union can help". After I spoke, UNISON Regional manager Vicky Easton gave an update on the Trade Union Bill.

Before my speech I asked how many people present had heard about "Pay to Stay" and only about half put their hands up. I then asked how many were Council or Housing Association's tenants and again about half put their hands up.

This is really frightening. Leaving aside for the moment that the Government is stealing property belonging to hard pressed Councils to pay for its right to buy discount election bribe for Housing Association tenants (and London will be used to pay for discount in Councils all over the Country that has sold or transferred its housing stock)

What tenants do not understand is under "Pay to Stay" if they have an household income of £40k per year in London (and £30k elsewhere) their rent may double or even treble! Since they will have to pay market rents for their homes. In London this will mean that two NHS nurses earning £20k per year would have to pay up to an incredible £12k extra per year for their home.

In the Q&A there was an interesting discussion about what politics actually means and why there is apathy amongst some union members even if government policies have a huge impact on their lives.

I said what many people don't realise is that politics is all about choices. The current government has made a political choice to double or even triple the rents for millions of workers. They made this choice because they ideologically believe in the "market" and everyone should pay the market rate. If you don't think that this is right then you should either support another political party who opposes it or just pay up and don't whinge about it. Your choice!

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