Thursday 20 August 2009

Homeless charity making own staff homeless!

Congratulations to my UNISON colleagues working for Brighton Housing Trust, who took strike action yesterday against attempts by BHT management to slash their pay and other terms and conditions. Many staff face pay cuts of up to £300 per month.

The Chief Executive of BHT, ex 'rebel' Labour Councillor Andy Winter (a poacher turned gamekeeper if ever there was one) decided that he had pressing business in London rather than face the wrath of his workforce. On his watch BHT has gone from being an employer of choice in the voluntary sector to being known as an organisation which bullies it's staff. No word on whether he thinks HE should be due a pay cut.

Contrary to the claims that this is all about the credit crunch, the reality is that it is all about breaking one of the best-organised voluntary sector workforces in the area.

The workers have offered to suspend action if Winter withdraws the sackings and negotiates. But there will be more action if not.

This is one we have to win.


Andy Winter (Chief Executive of Brighton Housing Trust) said...

Hi Andy

I thought that your posting on the BHT strike required some corrections, additions and comments. The necessary measures taken by BHT, in order to ensure that our services could be maintained and that we were able to secure and maintain contracts in a climate of competitive tendering, were the least worst options available.

Our priority was to avoid job losses and cuts in services. We have achieved this. Our salaries and terms and conditions remain competitive when compared to just about any other voluntary sector organisation locally as well as the private sector.

Apart from the reduction in salaries for 150 of our staff (a further 50 are receiving pay increases), the only other change has been to increase the working week from 35 to 37 hours in line with the NJC and most other organisations locally. I have never pretended that the cut in salaries is anything but awful and as I have said to BHT staff it is probably the worst thing that I have ever had to do in my professional life.

We have also given 12 month salary protection to those experiencing cuts in salary so that they have time to explore alternative employment and make any necessary adjustments in their personal circumstances. I am not aware of any other organisation that has avoided redundancies and offered salary protection to its staff when faced with the cuts needed in BHT.

You are someone who I have always respected, a sensible and measured politician, who I felt looked at issues rather than personalities. (We have known each other for almost 30 years). Therefore, I was surprised that you have repeated some of the huffing and puffing of some of your less measured colleagues. For example, what evidence is there of bullying in the organisation? If anything, the process that we have followed has gone the extra mile to allow members of staff to express views and they have clearly been able to influence the outcome of the consultation.

Why did you feel the need to publish other nonsense in your blog (for example, about me being in London on the day of the strike - I was in my office all day until 3.50pm when I went to BBC Sussex to do an interview)? I accept that there are a lot of reasons for some staff in BHT to be unhappy and angry but I cannot understand why people then have to make up such silly nonsense and why you felt compelled to repeat it. It benefits no one and further strains relationships. I think you have been seriously mis-informed. Repeating misinformation does you no credit.

I would be very pleased to meet with you to talk through the issues and the process we have gone through so that, in future, should you post items about BHT, you will be better informed. I would be happy to do this in your capacity as Chair of the Unison branch covering BHT and me as one of your members, or in a private capacity. Please give me a ring so we can arrange a time to meet.

Kind regards


Andy Winter said...

PS I am taking a four figure salary cut said...

go on Andy W
give us the details of your pay cut
after all that top banker had a SIX figure pension cut recently so he must be even more generous!!??!!

Andy Richards said...

Thanks for the comments Andy. My view of what BHT has become is informed by the discussions I have had with a number of your staff (some with many years' service). They are people who were once proud to work for BHT but now find that pride sorely tested.

You must be aware of the personal consequences of the pay cuts you are proposing so I would suggest that, rather than talk to me, you get back round the table with your staff and their representatives.