Branch Secretary :

Housing sector losing ground on BME representation

Need to strengthen union


The housing sector has ‘lost ground’ on BME representation according to Inside Housing today.  Unite says that this highlights the need to strengthen union organisation in the sector.


The trade journal reports ‘housing figures’ as saying that a lack of programmes monitoring the employment and representation of BME individuals within housing organisations has led to a lack of diversity in the sector.


George Floyd


This week’s meeting of the Unite housing workers branch passed a resolution expressing solidarity with the movement following the death of George Floyd. It notes the battles we have with management in our sector on a range of equalities issues; and it commits the branch to continue to campaign on them.


In 2018 Inside Housing launched a major campaign promoting ‘diversity and inclusion’ following research showing the social housing sector failing to progress.  The magazine highlighted the fact that most of the sectors leadership remains white and male. At the same time, the proportion of black and Asian people housed by housing associations had declined.




We welcomed the initiative, but it is worth quoting our warnings at length.


“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 initiatives.  If management in the sector is serious about addressing diversity it must review its attitude to working with unions and its commitment to openness.”


Fight back


Despite employers apparently excellent policies we have been forced into major campaigns in the sector, for example at Metropolitan Thames Valley.


Unite membership in the sector is increasing. Things will not be changed by waiting for warm words from ‘sector leaders’ but by organising and fighting back.


Paul Kershaw 


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