"The Council currently owns these homes and should have the decency to be honest with the people it asks to manage them…" UNISON
Until March 15th, Salix Homes tenants are being `surveyed' on whether their socially rented houses should stay under the remit of Salford City Council, or be transferred to a registered social landlord, believed by many to be City West.
As discussions, meetings and forums get underway to discuss the implications of transferring almost the last remaining stock of Salford Council owned homes in the city, UNISON, the trade union representing Salix staff, was asked by its members to request representation in the process. They also asked the union to get further information about the consequences of a possible transfer.
UNISON duly wrote to Gena Merrett, Assistant Mayor for Housing, around the "lack of trade union involvement", complaining that "all the information that has been presented to staff and tenants…has been heavily weighted in favour of stock transfer", and asking lots of questions around finance and democracy should the transfer go ahead.
UNISON added that, previously, when Salix Homes and Urban Vision were set up, and when the last Council housing transfer to City West took place, the trade unions were present during discussions.
The Salford Star has seen the series of letters and emails between UNISON and Gena Merrett, which end with the ex-Buile Hill High School head mistress basically telling UNISON to `know your place', while questioning its motives as being "ideologically opposed to stock transfer"…er, even though Salford City UNISON hasn't taken an official position on the transfer.
Merrett writes… "This is why it is inappropriate for you to attend meetings to attempt to influence the decision as we have made it clear to the tenants that they must be able to determine what is best for them and their homes, given the council is unable to procure the funding to make their homes decent, to maintain them appropriately over the next 30 years and to provide the level of investment and services they have already indicated they would want.
"It is not necessary to provide you with the level of financial and other information you have requested" she adds "as this is not relevant to the support of your members in terms of their employment."
In another e-mail, Merrett again queries UNISON's motives…"When one continues to ask questions not directly pertinent to their role as an employee representative one begins to wonder why."
Now Salford City UNISON has taken the row public, calling the tone of Merrett's response "disappointing", leaving the union "wondering why the Council won't answer a series of questions…"
"UNISON has a national position of opposition to the stock transfer of housing" says Salford City UNISON branch secretary Steve North "This is effectively because the union sees it as the selling off of public property to a market that cares more about money than homes or services.
"On that basis, Salford UNISON could have automatically taken a position to oppose stock transfer as a potential outcome to this appraisal and could have campaigned publicly against it" he adds "Instead, however, we simply chose to ask questions in a polite and productive way. Councillor Merrett refuses to answer our questions and attempts to prevent us from being involved in any discussions, despite the fact that whatever decision is taken will have a direct impact on our members who work for Salix Homes.
"Furthermore, we have pointed out that we have always been involved in such discussions in the past and were at the table when New Prospect, Salix Homes and City West were set up" he explains "We have always accepted that it is right for tenants to have the final say, but that does not mean the concerns of the workforce should not at least be considered and responded to properly - this issue will affect their jobs and their lives.
"The tone of her response is disappointing and leaves us wondering why the Council won't answer a series of questions" he concludes "We can and do talk to Salix Homes, but the Council currently owns these homes and should have the decency to be honest with the people it asks to manage them."
On Gena Merrett's website for the Gena Merrett Associates business she runs as an `educational consultant' and `academy broker adviser', it states that "Gena has excellent oral and written communication skills"… just not with trade unions eh? Or community magazines for that matter…
• Gena Merrett disgracefully attempted to discredit the Salford Star this week with some wild and untrue allegations – click here to read the article.
• The tenants survey on the transfer of Salford Council housing stock continues until 15th March, with a newsletter put out to tenants screaming in bright pink `Important: Staying the same is not an option' – to see the Your Home, Your Say website click here