Unite the union has called for no compulsory job losses as two of the UK’s largest housing associations – One Housing Group (OHG) and The Riverside Group – announced they were in ‘partnership’ talks.

Unite, which represents staff across both organisations, warned the respective bosses not to engage in ‘a race to the bottom’ in terms of pay and employment conditions for staff during the two-year merger process.

In a statement to staff, OHG CEO Richard Hill has already warned that ‘there are likely to be some role reductions’. Already, at Riverside, Unite is fighting compulsory job losses that are threatened by existing restructuring plans.

The Riverside Group is a Liverpool-based charitable housing association with 58,000 homes, while OHG is centred in London and the south east. The eventual merger would create one of the country’s largest association groups with nearly 75,000 homes.

Unite national officer for the not for profit sector Siobhan Endean said: “As the recognised union with members across both organisations, we will engage constructively during the partnership talks. We want to see a strong ethos of positive industrial relations and valuing staff as key factors in these discussions.

“However, we are strongly against any compulsory redundancies now or in the future, or an unattractive ‘race to the bottom in terms’ of pay and employment conditions for staff who are any organisation’s greatest asset. We would want all terms to be harmonised up to the best in the sector.

“Housing associations have a long-established societal mission to provide good accommodation for its residents, many of whom may be in vulnerable circumstances, and this should not be forgotten by the respective managements going forward.”

Unite regional officer for OHG Steve O’Donnell said: “We know OHG is in a financial mess as a result of poor management decisions over the past couple of years. In London, we have raised governance issues regarding the situation it finds itself in. The management also have a strained relationship with residents’ groups due to health and safety issues, and inadequate repairs at various sites where maintenance and repairs have been outsourced to third parties.”

Unite regional officer for Riverside John Sheppard said: “This is another example of ‘merger mania’ that is plaguing the sector with endless and expensive restructuring that causes great uncertainty for staff and with tenants left feeling isolated as services become ‘faceless’ and more distant. The management should concentrate on getting the basics right.

“Already the Riverside management is engaged in restructuring plans that threaten compulsory redundancies for our members, so this latest announcement does not augur well for the future.”

Unite members’ jobs include care workers, maintenance staff, concierges, project workers, housing officers, caretakers and support workers.


 Notes to editors:

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.