'Upsetting, demoralising and frustrating'

Striking Unite members at the Regulator of Social Housing speak out in plea to bosses to come to the table and listen

Reading time: 5 min

Hundreds of Unite members employed by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) are on strike action all week this week in a dispute over pay.

Members are angry that not only are they expected to accept a real-terms pay cut virtually each and every year, but that management refuses to listen to staff over pay concerns – members have no seat at the table in pay discussions.

Members, who are responsible for the economic and governance regulations relating to social housing landlords, have also voiced concern over a huge increase in workload and an expansion in work as new regulations come into effect. Workers report they are being required to undertake two jobs — their existing workload and also training and mentoring new starters.

The RSH has so far refused to go above the Treasury’s figure of a 4.5 per cent pay increase for the current year – yet another significant real-terms pay cut – claiming that their hands are tied by the Treasury’s pay remit, even though the organisation has substantial reserves.

But RSH staff know this is just an excuse.

That’s because Unite members at the Housing Ombudsman Service, another non-departmental public body that functions in the same way as the RSH, had planned to take co-ordinated strike action with RSH members, but Housing Ombudsman Service management agreed to meet with Unite through ACAS and their dispute has now been resolved.

Unite believes that if Housing Ombudsman Service management can come to the table, so can the Regulator of Social Housing bosses, who have so far refused to listen.

Today, UniteLive hears from two striking Unite RSH members on why they are taking strike action.

One member notes:

I’m not going to dwell on the cost of living crisis we all live in, nor harp on about mortgages, food, and energy bills all going up. I won’t even talk about holidays that come and go without being able to afford to go anywhere.

Instead I want to ponder for a minute my ignorance of the organisation that I work for. I had previously thought of the Regulator of Social Housing as forward thinking, prepared to understand the wellbeing of its staff, with much welcome policies such as respect at work. Flexibility and listening come to mind too. All of this has been shattered when I learn that Regulator’s management has stopped meaningful communication with my union.

Does the Regulator care about its staff? Are they merely going through the motions with its wellness mantra and the hope of an open, listening culture? If management would only listen to staff concerns and be prepared to challenge the Government straitjacket about pay, we could collectively work together to support a frustrated and increasingly concerned workforce.

Is the RSH the equivalent of a G4 housing provider? It certainly needs an improvement plan, to increase its investment in its most important asset – its staff.

Another member highlighted the frustration of seeing the Housing Ombudsman Service coming to the table to settle what was essentially the same dispute as the one RSH staff now face. The member noted:

I was very annoyed to learn that the Housing Ombudsman Service had taken steps to settle the dispute with its union, by meeting with ACAS. This is because it reinforced the fact that there really is no reason why our management can’t do the same — they are just choosing not to. I found it extremely saddening that our managers aren’t trying to help us like the managers are at the Ombudsman.

This strike was a last resort for us; it was an extremely difficult decision professionally and financially. Why wouldn’t our management want to use all the measures it can to help us? Instead, they have zero interest in looking at any flexibility in the pay remit. I find it upsetting, demoralising and frustrating that my employer isn’t as caring, interested, flexible or tuned in as I had hoped it was.

Stay tuned on UniteLive for the latest on the RSH strike.

Pics from the picket line this week

By UniteLive team