Branch Secretary : suz.muna.unite@gmail.com
  

Peabody workers defend pensions

Human and kind?

 

by Jack Frost

 

Generally the more an organisation talks about being ‘caring’, ‘kind’ and ‘human’, the less it actually is in reality. Images of empty vessels making the most noise spring to mind.

 

‘Wow’ awards for ‘delivering bad news in a caring way’

 

Indeed there must be some kind of George Orwell doublespeak at play, when Peabody staff can win online ‘Wow’ awards for ‘delivering bad news in a caring way’. Yes this really was a quote from an executive director seen recently on the staff intranet. Dark comedy.

 

Like all such pap, Peabody’s latest staff motivational slogans have a hollow ring. Especially in the light of the sustained job losses, ‘restructurings’ and now attacks on pension provision since the merger with Family Mosaic in 2017. 

 

More together

 

In common with the trend of the times, this coming together of the Peabody and Family Mosiac housing trusts, was done in the name of creating a London and Home Counties based, financial and property giant.  One that could achieve ‘more together’ than apart - at least that was the sales pitch made to staff.  None of whom were asked if they wanted it incidentally.

 

 

As ever, the view from the top probably looks so bright, that the highly paid executive team  just have to wear shades.

 

By contrast, things at the bottom look rather different. Especially for those sweeping the staircases of Peabody’s inner city estates, advising residents in poverty or dealing with the elderly and vulnerable in Family Mosaic’s care homes.  All on pitiably low wages. 

 

Shameful

 

It is surely a shameful thing for any modern organisation, let alone ones drawn from charitable, philanthropic and faith based ones such as these, combined worth some £6 billion in 2016, to tout moving toward paying the London Living Wage as a source of pride? Welcome to the modern world...

 

Currently Peabody staff are absorbing the latest ‘harmonising’ (or in plain English - cutting) of their basic pension terms and conditions. The company is looking to close the expensive Social Housing and Local Government Pension Schemes.  And also to reduce their employer contributions from £2 for every £1 contributed by the employee, to the bare minimum of £1 for £1 match funding. 

 

To its credit the old Peabody took the same view as Unite the Union’s national policy, that doubling the employee’s contributions offers an incentive based route for the lowest paid staff to achieve decent pension provision in their later life.

 

Marketing slogans

 

The new Peabody however uses the name, but none of the high Victorian principles of its founder George Peabody.  A controversial man, but one who believed in using his huge wealth as a classic philanthropist, for the public good and on behalf of the poorest in society. 

 

In 2018, these words might make great marketing slogans for the sales and development teams over cappuccinos, as they survey the riverside sites of East and South East London, but they mean little when the future pension provision of the lowest paid staff is seen as an annoying bottom line expense by the small minded accountants who are the 21st century heirs of Peabody’s 1862 charitable gift.

 

Unite the Union is opposing the proposed pension cuts and is encouraging all staff to do the same. 

 

So far both a staff petition and a collective grievance has been filed with the new Peabody HR; and the union is encouraging all staff to oppose the proposals during the current period of formal consultation via a series of local meetings.

 

Many members see this as a crossroads moment. What management get away with now, will but the future path of the new Peabody - more will come...

 

Open talks with trade unions

 

The pension issue will be decided by the Peabody board in May 2018 and Unite will be maintaining the pressure on Chief Executive Brendan Sarsfield and Peabody chair Lord Bob Kerslake to do the decent thing and open talks with the trade unions representing both the old Peabody and Family Mosaic side.

 

So far communication from Peabody has been limited, but it is Unite’s aim to be able to nominate Peabody for one of its own Wow awards. Not for delivering ‘bad news in a caring way’, but a real ‘Wow’ award for keeping to the spirit of Peabody’s founder’s words and looking out for the interests of its lowest paid and hardest working staff.

 

Now that really would be ‘human’, ‘kind’ and ‘caring’ wouldn’t it?

 

To find out more about the current Peabody Unite pension campaign, or to lend welcome solidarity and support, please email UNITEPEABODY@outlook.com

 

Can they afford to maintain pensions and services?  Last year housing association surpluses went up by 15.6% while staff costs went down by 6.6% and the overall surplus was a record high.  Read more here.

 

Jack Frost (pseudonym!) works for Peabody

Published February 8th 2018.

 

Comments :

I am disgusted at Peabody's move to cut staff pension provision and entirely support you in opposing this penny pinching move. I am a Family Mosaic tenant of over 30 years and believe that the service we get from staff will be undermined if their pay and conditions are cut. I would like to see staff on decent pay and pensions, that way they stay with the association and develop their knowledge and skills. The threatened cut to pensions is short sighted and will be detrimental to tenants and residents in the long run. Go on strike to defend your pensions! I for one will argue for support for you all


By rob Murthwaite on 2018-02-08 16:05:49

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