Friday, December 09, 2016

"Members fight back against derecognition threat"

"Union members at a new housing group – one of the largest in Europe – could be asked whether they are prepared to take industrial action over derecognition threats.

The new Clarion and Latimer Housing Group was formed this week from the merger of Circle Housing and Affinity Sutton and is threatening to withdraw recognition from UNISON, Unite and the GMB.

Clarion and Latimer is responsible for 130,000 homes across 176 local authority areas and has 4,000 staff.

Latest available figures for the two housing associations who merged to form it show a combined turnover of £826m, a pre-tax surplus of £233m and an estimated £20bn in assets.

Members of all three unions lobbied the new group’s launch party on Tuesday (6 December), urging guests to ask the new group’s management to engage with the unions.

UNISON NEC member and Circle convenor John Gray said that “unions have had a long and productive relationship with management at Circle and we have been given no reason why this should now come to an end.”

But he pointed out that plans to end recognition would mean “that we lose our ability to negotiate over pay, terms and conditions, and the restructures which will inevitably follow a merger.”

UNISON organiser and Clarion joint union secretary Barney Wakefield said all three unions would use their political influence with local authorities to build support for the campaign against derecognition.

“There are so many housing associations who value trade unions and respect workers’ rights,” he said. “We will be calling on councils to withdraw co-operation from Clarion on new projects until union recognition is secured.”

The campaign was backed by UNISON’s community service group executive this week, representing some 60,000 members working for housing associations and charities".

hat tip

Thursday, December 08, 2016

"Fabians to look into Newham Mayoral Nomination Vote"

 Check out report below in Newham Recorder.
"The Fabian Society is “seeking further information” after its Newham members alleged they had not participated in a trigger ballot vote to support Sir Robin after the results were announced yesterday.

The incumbent mayor’s victory came from the affiliated organisations – comprising trade unions and socialist societies – which voted 11 to six in favour of keeping him, despite 11 out of 20 Labour wards voting for an open selection process,

The Fabian Society, which has not met in four years, voted to re-select Sir Robin Wales but Newham member Dianne Walls said no invitation was sent to members and if a vote did happen “it was a secret from us”.

She said: “I do not know how it can stand if we were not given the opportunity to vote.”

Representatives believed the society to be defunct after Giles Wright, Membership Officer for the Fabian Society, said it was “no longer active” in an email sent in August 7, 2015.

But Mr Wright announced two new social meetings by email last Tuesday (Nov 29), as seen by the Recorder.

In response to a recipient he said: “Newham Fabian Society is being revived, after a break partly caused by the urgency of national and mayoral elections, etc.”

General Secretary of the Fabian Society, Andrew Harrop, said: “The Fabian Society’s rules require a vote of eligible members before a local Fabian Society makes a nomination in Labour Party selection processes.

“The national Fabian Society has received a number of complaints that correct procedure was not followed in the Newham mayoral trigger ballot and we are now seeking further information from Newham Fabians.”

A representative for Sir Robin Wales declined to comment".

I have also made a complaint to the Fabians.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

"No Union Busting at Clarion"

Press release: no union-busting at Clarion – UNISON, Unite and GMB lobby to fight threatened withdrawal of union recognition

For immediate release – Wednesday 7th December 2016

Trade unions UNISON, Unite and the GMB stepped up their campaign against union derecognition last night with a lobby of the launch party for the new Clarion and Latimer Housing Group, formed from the merger of Circle Housing with Affinity Sutton.

The new housing association, one of the largest in Europe, is threatening to withdraw union recognition from the three unions. Members of all three unions took part in the lobby on 6th December 2016, handing out leaflets to guests of the launch event which asked Clarion management to engage with the trade unions in a positive way.

John Gray, UNISON convenor at Circle and UNISON NEC member for Housing Associations and Community organisations, said: “Withdrawing union recognition means that we lose our ability to negotiate over pay, terms and conditions, and the restructures which will inevitably follow a merger. Trade unions have had a long and productive relationship with management at Circle and we have been given no reason why this should now come to an end.”

He confirmed that the next step of the campaign will be a consultative ballot for industrial action, potentially opening the way to co-ordinated strike action in the New Year.

Adam Lambert, Regional Officer for Unite the Union, called on the Chief Executive of the new group, Keith Exford, to meet with the unions immediately in order to avoid strike action, saying: “The news that management are not prepared to work positively with the unions will undermine staff confidence in management at a time of great uncertainty. Strike action is a last resort, but this aggressive move from management may leave us no other option.”

Robert Melciou, GMB representative at Clarion, added: “It defies belief that management are using the merger as a pretext to withdraw recognition. It’s at times of change like this that members most need a strong voice at work to defend jobs and protect terms and conditions.” 

Barney Wakefield, secretary of the joint unions at Clarion, said all three unions would be using political influence with local authorities to build support for the campaign against derecognition. He said: “Labour councils in particular should not be working with union busters when there are so many Housing Associations who value trade unions and respect workers’ rights. We will be calling on councils to withdraw co-operation from Clarion on new projects until union recognition is secured.”

For more information please contact:
John Gray, Circle UNISON Convenor on tel07432 150530
Barney Wakefield, secretary of the joint unions on tel0781 712 0556

Notes for editors

• UNISON represents 1.3 million workers employed in the public sector, by private contractors and in the not-for-profit sector, including over 20,000 members in housing associations. The UNISON Housing Associations Branch represents over 3,000 workers in social and supported housing across Greater London.
• Unite has over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy, including over 4,500 members within London's housing and social care sector. 
• The GMB is a general trade union representing over 600,000 members working in every sector of the UK labour force. 
• Clarion Housing Group was formed in December 2016 from the merger of Circle and Affinity Sutton. The new housing association will be one of the largest in Europe, with 130,000 homes across 176 local authority areas and 4,000 staff. They have a combined turnover of £826 million, a pre-tax surplus of £233 million and an estimated £20 billion in assets. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Newham Mayor Candidate - Why we need a leader to make a hard decision

I must admit that I agree with much (but not all) of the angry polemic below by Newham @triggerdemocracy. I too have been overwhelmed by complaints by local Party members about what has gone on and will support the call for a proper and independent enquiry into the many allegations of criminal forgery and deception about the affiliate vote.
However, I do think that the Party is hopeless split and divided and that the only way to unite the Party is for the current Mayor to be a leader and agree to put himself through an open selection process. 

I genuinely fear for the Party locally if this is not done. Party unity is key and the only way I think this can now be achieved is if the Labour Mayoral candidate is elected by one member, one vote. 
Unknown undemocratic affiliates
"Robin Wales has no mandate from Labour members for an automatic 5th term as Mayor of Newham. He is ignoring the will of party members in favour of nominations made by unknown and undemocratic affiliates. Labour members in Newham call on Robin Wales to agree to an open and democratic selection to choose Labour’s candidate for Mayor.
Full results – below
Newham’s Local Campaign forum sat in a small room and quietly announced to themselves that Robin Wales has been re-selected as Labour’s candidate for 2018 with 20 branches/affiliates voting Yes and 17 No.
The results demonstrate Robin Wales has no mandate for an automatic 5th term from Labour members in Newham. He is claiming a technical victory made up of unknown and undemocratic affiliates. Members went to their meetings in good faith and voted for what they believed was best for Labour and Newham. We call on Robin Wales to listen to them and to agree to an open selection, that would include himself, which would result in a  democratically selected Labour candidate for Mayor of Newham that everyone in the party would support.
Below is a breakdown of the votes. Remember, the question was “Do you want to reselect Robin Wales”. Labour members overwhelmingly voted for an open re-selection (by voting No), but more affiliates, most of which aren’t made up of members but have an equivalent weighting to a branch, returned nominations to automatically re-select Robin Wales (voting Yes).
Wards (11 No and 9 Yes)
Of the 20 ward branches in Newham –  11 voted No, for an open selection, and 9 voted Yes (full list at end).
775 Newham Labour members went to their ward meeting – 424 voted No and 351 voted Yes – so No won by a majority of 73 votes.
Affiliates (6 Yes and 11 No)
1) Co-op Party – No (37 voted No and 36 Yes, many Co-op members are also Labour party members so this was a 2nd or even 3rd vote for many)
2) Women’s Forum – No (46 voted No and 36 voted Yes, all Women’s Forum members are members of the Labour party so this was a 2nd or 3rd vote for many)
3) Newham Fabians – Yes (members state they were not invited to a meeting so it’s not clear how this nomination was made)
4) Christians on the Left – Yes (members were invited to a discussion on ‘Working with Faith Groups’ which had a ‘we will also canvass opinion on the Mayoral Trigger Ballot’ as an aside. They returned a Yes vote)
5) CWU – No (no meeting of members)
6) NAHT – No (no meeting of members)7) UNISON No (no meeting of members)8) Unite – No (no meeting of members)9) GMB Yes (no meeting of members)10) GMB Yes (no meeting of members)11) GMB Yes (no meeting of members)12 BECTU Yes (no meeting of members)13) CWU  Yes (no meeting of members)14) CWU Yes (no meeting of members)15) USDAW Yes (no meeting of members)16) TSSA Yes (no meeting of members)17) GMB Yes (no meeting of members)Some unions have more than one vote as they have more than one branche affiliated.
Ward branch results:
Beckton: Yes (Yes 16, No 3)
Boleyn: No (Yes 3, No 36)
Canning Town North: No (Yes 17, No 21)
Canning Town South: No (Yes 6, No 8)
Custom House: Yes (Yes 7, No 6)
East Ham Central: No (Yes 29, No 31)
East Ham North: No (Yes 20, No 23)
East Ham South: Yes (Yes 26, No 8)
Forest Gate North: No (Yes 13, No 30)
Forest Gate South: Yes (Yes 34, No 21)
Green Street East: No (Yes 5, No 32)
Green Street West: Yes (Yes 36, No 32)
Little Ilford: No (Yes 23, No 36)
Manor Park: Yes (Yes 29, No 28 (recount first was 30/30))
Plaistow North: No (Yes 27, No 17)
Plaistow South: No (Yes 12, No 19)
Royal Docks Yes (Yes 11, No 1)
Stratford & New Town: No (Yes 11, No 34)
Wall End Yes (Yes 20, No 18)
West Ham: No (Yes 8, No 20)
It has been nearly 15 years since Labour members last got to choose who they wanted to be Newham’s Mayor. 11 wards have now voted FOR an open selection.

Monday, December 05, 2016

"Housing Associations have lost their soul" Call for new campaign group to make them more democratic and accountable.

At the Labour Housing Group fringe at this year’s Labour Party Conference former UNISON Regional Secretary Frank Hont (and now Liverpool Council Cabinet member for Housing) described Housing Associations as having “lost their soul”. This was in front of Labour Housing shadow minister John Healey MP. 

This motion calling for a campaign for greater democracy and accountability in Housing Associations was recently put before the UNISON Community National Service Group Executive.

This community SGE notes:

That UK Housing Associations used to be genuinely progressive and democratic social housing organisations accountable to their tenants while providing high quality, affordable homes and responsible services.

Many used to have effective and well run Tenant & Resident Associations (TRA) and have executive boards that reflected the local community as well as being open, transparent, inclusive and most important of all - accountable.

Trade Unions, TRAs and local authorities were seen as vital stakeholders and partners.

Recently Housing Associations have started to dismantle TRAs and replace them with “focus groups” and so called “residents representatives” - interviewed and appointed by senior management.

Elected Councillors have been removed from Executive Boards.

Some Housing Associations refuse to recognise the human rights of their workers by de-recognising trade unions while victimising and blacklisting union activists.

Housing Associations which treat their residents badly also tend to treat their workers badly as well.
This community SGE resolves:-

To campaign and lobby against all Housing Associations that do not have democratically elected and financially supported independent Tenants and Residents Associations or recognise trade unions.

To ask the NEC to see if it is feasible to help set up a body that would work with other trade unions, councillors, Assembly members, MSPs, MPs and resident groups to campaign to make Housing Associations become democratic and accountable.

To support the call that at least 50% of all Housing Association Board Members should be genuine Resident elected representatives (which may include local Councillors and community organisations and at least one trade union representative).

Campaign for residents of Housing Associations that consistently fail to be progressive and democratic and do not perform adequate housing management functions to be given the right to be allowed the opportunity to vote on a transfer of their homes to another Landlord including Local Authorities.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Mayor lost support of Newham Labour Party Branches and membership

This afternoon the last Newham Labour Party branch, Green Street East held its trigger ballot meeting and voted 32 to 5 for an open selection process for the next Newham Labour Mayoral candidate.

This means that a majority of Labour Party branches in Newham agree with an open selection and if you count the numbers in each branch an overwhelming number of individual Newham Labour Party members have also voted for an open contest.

In the two selection meetings I have attended (Forest Gate North and Co-op Party) supporters of the current Mayor have argued that this affirmation process was actually a "vote of no confidence" in him by Party members. He has since lost 11 out of 9 branches.

Tonight the West Ham Labour Party Women's Forum also held its trigger meeting and in the biggest meeting held in the current contest they voted decisively for an open selection as well by 46 No votes to 36 Yes.

I hope that since an overwhelming majority of branches and Labour Party members want this to happen it will happen. this space :)

Saturday, December 03, 2016

UNISON Service Group Executive offers full support to fight Union Busting at Clarion Housing Group

Picture from Wednesday's meeting of the UNISON Community Service Group Executive (SGE) in our National headquarters in London.

The Community SGE is made up of UNISON elected representatives from Housing Associations and Charities across the UK.

The SGE offered full support and solidarity to the fight for human rights and trade union recognition in Clarion Housing Group.

Clarion merged Circle Housing Group and Affinity Sutton that same day to become the largest Housing Association in Europe but it has announced that trade union recognition and protection for workers will not transfer over to the new Group.

They have made an active choice to deliberately de-recognise their trade unions. They did not have to do this.

Clarion claims that they are neither "for or against" trade unions? How bizarre? Trade union recognition is a basic human right. Are they neither "for or against" racism, sexism, homophobia...? Of course not. You cannot pick and choose which human rights which you want to respect.

UNISON, Unite and GMB, who represent staff in both organisations think that this is "Union busting" and cannot understand why unlike other Housing Associations who are merging, they want to attack their trade unions?

The unions have reluctantly decided to hold an indicative ballot of all union members for industrial action and also a campaign to persuade all UK local authorities to "boycott" Clarion until it agrees to respect the human rights of its workers and recognise trade unions. Other actions are also being considered which I will post upon later.

Check out "Inside Housing" report here.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Dear Robin (time to say goodbye or face an open election)

Dear Robin,
The results of the Mayoral Trigger Ballot have already shown that the Labour Party in Newham is deeply divided over the question of your automatic re-selection as mayoral candidate for the election of 2018. The majority of members taking part in the Trigger Ballot have voted ‘No’, including 10 wards, which is a resounding vote for democracy and shows that the party does not support your sole candidacy. The party wants an open and democratic selection process to commence immediately.
We request that, if you wish to continue to seek the nomination, you agree to take part in an open selection contest. This competition will be open to any member of the Labour Party in Newham, including ourselves which would produce a result that will be accepted by all members. 
We believe that a contested selection will unify the local party as all members will be involved, whether the winner will be yourself or someone else. We propose that the terms for the election be one member one vote (OMOV). Newham Labour Party members clearly want an open process, so we should replicate the process adopted for the selection of the Labour candidate for London Mayor.
We therefore call upon you to accept an open selection process, conducted under the terms of OMOV, so that the wishes of the party members can be clearly heard and the result accepted by all. In this way, the Labour Party in Newham will be able to pursue its mission of serving the community and improving the lives of all the residents of this borough.
Yours sincerely,
Cllr Kay Scoresby & Cllr John Whitworth

"The Mayor does not have a Mandate from Members" The People have Spoken

Check out the latest from Newham Recorder following the vote last night in 4 Labour Party branches for an open selection process for the next Mayor.

The current mayor has now (in the speeches of his supporters at selection meetings) "lost the confidence" of a majority of Newham Labour Party branches and members.

One of the wards voted against him 36 to 3 in favour of an open selection!

An overwhelming majority of Labour Party members have also voted for change. "The people have spoken".

The only way for the current Mayor to regain a mandate is by an open selection process.

I will publish the open letter to Sir Robin Wales sent today by declared Mayoral candidates, Cllr Kay Scoresby and Cllr John Whitworth next.

Latest Newham trigger ballots swing results in favour of open selection process
The number of Labour wards in favour of an open selection process for the 2018 Newham mayoral race have taken the lead.
Four wards – Boleyn, Canning Town North, East Ham Central and Plaistow South – voted “no” in last night’s trigger ballots, meaning the “no” results now tally 10 while those who voted “yes” stand at nine.
This means that the majority of wards want to see several candidates put forward as Labour’s choice in the Mayor of Newham 2018 election rather than Sir Robin Wales being automatically reselected.
Green Street East, the remaining Labour ward which was due to vote on Sunday, will not be allowed to take part following a dispute over its registration process, the Recorder has been told.
A further 11 affiliated organisations, the majority of whom have already voted, have yet to declare their position which may affect the outcome of the result.
Newham Co-op Party voted “No” with the final result being Yes: 36 to No: 37
However a spokesperson for Trigger Democracy has “called upon Sir Robin Wales to announce his support for an open selection”.
They said: “It is clear following the four No votes last night that the mayor does not have a mandate from members to serve a fifth term.
“He would only get that if he won an open and democratic selection including other candidates.
“A decisive majority of wards and Labour memebrs, young and old, black, white and Asian, those from the left and those from the right of the party, new members and those who joined before Newham was even created, have clearly voted for choice and democracy.
“If Robin Wales is deemed to have been reselected on a technicality and refuses to take part in an open selection he will have lost the confidence of his local party members.”
Last night’s ward results were as follows: Boleyn: Yes 3, No 36; Canning Town North: Yes 17, No 21; East Ham Central: Yes 29, No 31; Plaistow South: Yes 12, No 19.
The voting process ends this weekend and a final result is expected on Monday".

Clarion Housing Group face Strike Call & Boycott

I do not understand at all how a progressive organisation that wants to do good for society has made a political decision that trade unions are automatically "bad" and that they will only work with them if they are forced to do so by a legislative process.

The trade unions are not the enemy so why pick a completely unnecessary and divisive fight?

Hat tip Inside Housing