Branch Secretary :

Inclusive futures campaign highlights lack of diversity

Welcome if it results in action


The trade magazine Inside Housing has launched a major campaign promoting ‘diversity and inclusion’ following research showing the social housing sector failing to progress.  The magazine highlights the fact that a majority of the sectors leadership remains white and male. 


Unite reps who have been battling against a range of management initiatives that weaken equality and diversity will welcome the initiative if increased attention results in action.


Negligible progress


New research shows a sector failing to progress: BME people only account for 4.5% of housing association executives and there are only 50 BME board members.  Many housing associations have no executives or non-executives from BME backgrounds and Inside Housing see negligible progress since their 2016 survey. 


It is not uncommon for over 50% of our members in a housing association to identify themselves as BME while not one director does so.  Research also shows that the number of people from BME communities housed by associations is declining, no doubt reflecting the impact of austerity on BME communities.  


Structural racism


Many are sceptical, Tom Murtha of SHOUT points to ‘structural racism’ and observes ‘We should support the initiatives by Inside Housing and others, but I am fearful that we will repeat the failure of previous initiatives going back 40 years – unless we address the problem within.’


Call to involve Unite


Unite would call for a focus on the entire workforce not just "leadership diversity" important as that is; the campaign should focus on equality and fairness at work in a wider sense as well as representation at the highest level.  We would also call for Inside Housing to involve Unite in their campaign if it is genuine to challenge the sector.


Moves to derecognise trade unions and marginalise their role in many housing associations fly in the face of pledges to ensure fairness, transparency and diversity.


Warnings about equality implications unheeded


Unite reps in our branch have called for ‘equality impact assessments’ of policy initiatives, and for publication of data on pay, recruitment, sickness and disciplinary measures to be broken down on race and gender lines. They have evidence that this would reveal discriminatory practice but have been too often flatly refused by management in the sector.


Many associations have moved away from clearly evaluated ‘rate for the job’ pay scales toward 'spot salaries' and reliance on bonus schemes.  Our warnings about the equality implications of such moves too often go unheeded and management teams have been hostile to monitoring the impact of their intiatives.  If management in the sector is serious about addressing diversity it must review its attutude to working with unions and its commitment to openness.


Paul Kershaw  9 January 2018



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