Two rallies, one cause

by John Watts

In this centenary of the Great War, rallies held at head office of St Mungo’s Broadway on the last day of the charity workers seven day strike and the New Era Estate Residents outside Westbrook Partners offices at the end of 2014 can be seen as minor events. But what will history say? 

Coalition Chancellor Osborne at London’s Royal Albert Hall had declared hostilities earlier: “You have to get out there and put the business argument. Because plenty of pressure groups, plenty of trade unions and plenty of charities will put the counter view. It is a difficult decision to put your head above the parapet, but that is the only way we are going to win this argument.”

The management of St Mungo's Broadway and Westbrook took him at his word and stuck their heads above the parapet. St Mungo's Broadway, following a recent merger, imposed changes to staff terms, with "retrospective consultation", announced their intention to stop negotiating with Unite union, cuts to pay and conditions including a £5,000 pay cut for new employees, and a £30,000 pay rise for the CEO.

Property firm Westbrook Partners bought the New Era Estate in Hoxton, home to 92 families with a 70 years history of affordable housing. House prices across London rose by 20% in that year with wages drastically failing to keep pace, and then Westbrook announced a massive TREBLE rent increase! The seven-day strike at St Mungo's Broadway had massive support from its workers, charities, clients, local councils and the labour movement as a whole. The threat of further industrial action, and the solidarity expressed for it, made St Mungo's Broadway management decide that it had stuck its head over the parapet long enough.

The rally by the New Era Estate residents and the handing in of the petition to Downing Street, attracted massive media attention helped by certain celebrities voicing their support for their cause, and the fact that 300,000 Londoners had signed the petition.

Westbrook, desperate to duck, sold out to Dolphin Square Foundation, a housing charity committed to, “a rent policy that is demonstrably fair and that decides rents on the basis of Londoners’ earnings rather than market values”.

Housing is on the front line of poverty in Britain, and London in particular. The charities know that Osborne’s ‘business argument’ is the root cause of the increased need for their services. The victories of St Mungo's Broadway workers and New Era Estate residents may be historical aberrations, or they just might be the beginning when these ‘vested interests’ turn the ‘business argument’ on to its hollow hypocritical head.

“HOMES FOR PLEBS!” The rallying cry rang out in front of Downing Street, and least we forget, for the time being is also home to Chancellor Osbourne, I wonder if he heard it?

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