Lambeth UNISON has launched a trade dispute in Housing in Lambeth Council due to unresponsiveness from seniour management. We are pleased to see that since we launched the trade dispute progress has been made in some areas.
We have found several managers are not giving people the flexi time they are allowed. They are also not taking into account when someone has an Occupational Health request for flexi time.
It has been confirmed by the Head of Corporate HR that anyone who came over from Lambeth Living has the right to two days flexi days a month, and is covered by the Lambeth Living flexi agreement. This also applies to anyone who has already been taking two days a month up until this point. If any staff are being denied these rights then please contact one of our trade union representatives immediately. Lambeth UNISON is still in negotiation about staff who have joined housing since Lambeth Living came back in to the Council and we are trying to negotiate to have the right to two days a month across the whole of the Council. Again please contact your UNION rep if you are having any issues.
Three month contracts in sheltered housing
UNISON raised a number of concerns over this. Why are the sheltered housing workforce being on rolling three-month fixed term contracts? The response was a long way short of satisfactory. The director announced that those employees who were directly employed could have the length of their fixed-term contracts extended from three months to six. This does not address the very serious effects on those employees who are subject to this provision. It really does not give them a great deal more security of tenure, and as for eligibility for loans and mortgages, makes no difference at all.
A new performance management (PM) system is being rolled out across the council. Yet for some reason Housing has an additional new PMsystem which does not include managers. The union is very worried that staff in housing had to deal with two separate systems for no good or clear reason. In addition, in a situation where most of the workforce is black, but most of the managers are white, the additional PM system means that black members of staff have additional levels of scrutiny that there managers do not. That strikes us as being thoroughly unjust.
Central Area Pilot
A extended pilot in the Central Area Housing office saw Housing Officers working without job descriptions for most of 2017. This pilot was only meant to last a limited period of time, but was extended apparently indefinitely. UNISON argued that working outside job descriptions as well as established teams blurs the responsibilities and reporting chains and lays staff open to being exploited and pressured into going beyond what is reasonable. Furthmore this further blunted the impact of the voluntary redundancy trawl so that instead of analysing what the gaps thereby caused were, management could simply require unqualified people to fill in. Thankfully, after raising it as part of the trade dispute the pilot has now been called off.
Race & gender profile of senior management
The workforce in Housing Management is highly representative of the population of the borough. However, beyond a certain level of seniority the profile differs dramatically. The current situation bears a closer resemblance to the management of a City bank in the 1950s than Lambeth in the current era. Again, the meeting rather glossed over this as a concern for the corporate entity at large rather than an issue specific to housing. I believe this amounts to evading responsibility. In the course of the discussion on flexibility the director pointed out that Housing was one of the services with the most frequent contact with the public. This is surely a strong argument for Housing to take a lead in addressing this issue.
We are glad that senior managers are now engaged around looking into issues of unconcious bias and more subtle forms of racism at work which are preventing BME members of staff from progressing. The unions are working closely on this issue at every level of the council,