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Housing campaign Shac backs strikes and calls for fire assessments
Paul Kershaw, chair, Unite the Union housing workers' branch
On a freezing wet evening, an impressive range of tenant and resident activists met at a Social Housing Action Campaign (Shac) open meeting in London on 29 January.
Shac stems from an initiative by the Unite union's housing workers' branch. The meeting took a report of a dispute in which workers at housing association Peabody took encouragement from the support of resident groups in achieving a 100% vote for strike action and winning their dispute.
In a wide-ranging discussion on housing policy, there was general agreement that Jeremy Corbyn's aspirations to support mass council house building and tenant rights mark an important and welcome turn away from Blairite housing policy. But this needs to be turned into specific polices and action.
There were reports of recent Shac activities including a successful 'Alternative Housing Awards' and a protest at the London Assembly meeting which questioned housing association bosses.
The chief executives failed to impress. The boss of housing association Catalyst said he had derecognised unions in order to listen to his staff! Staff said their repairs were bad because of staff shortages - so why is he squeezing pay, terms and conditions?
Catalyst had also not shared fire risk assessments with residents, despite been widely urged to do this in the wake of the Grenfell disaster - because residents would apparently not be capable of understanding them!
On the day of the meeting, the government information commissioner made a request to extend her powers, partly because of housing associations' failure in this area.
The Shac website includes material for residents seeking to obtain fire risk assessments for their homes.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 5 February 2019 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.