Supplementary memorandum by Battersea
and Wandsworth TUC (THC 26(f))
UPDATE ON EVENTS AT SOLON WANDSWORTH HA BETWEEN
ORIGINAL SUBMISSION AND 15 MARCH 2004
Since our original submission there have been
a number of extremely worrying developments in the treatment of
Solon Wandsworth Housing Association by the Housing Corporation
and its appointees. You will recall that we used Solon Wandsworth
as an example of the way in which the Housing Corporation was
operating in our area.
We are extremely concerned about the cavalier
manner in which the association's Management Committee, under
the direction of Housing Corporation appointees, is proceeding.
Given that the association is under Housing Corporation supervision
and subject to a Statutory Inquiry, it would appear that the actions
taken must have been taken with the concurrence of the Housing
In January 2004 the Special General Meeting
of shareholders (SGM) (and on earlier occasions) had passed resolutions
requiring the Management Committee (MC) to seek the approval of
shareholders before considering or implementing any re-structure
For two years the MC had acted as though (reluctantly)
bound by the SGM resolutions and indeed the "failure"
of shareholders to agree the MC proposals in January 2004 was
cited by the Housing Corporation (HC) as the principal reason
for calling a Statutory Inquiry into the affairs of Solon Wandsworth.
Following the SGM the MC had suspended its implementation
of the staff re-structure (a process intended to remove Solon's
traditional collective management structure).
However, on 1 March 2004 the situation changed
suddenly. Susan Reizenstein, Housing Corporation appointee and
chair of the MC, announced that the MC had received legal advice
that the resolutions were not binding on the MC and that it therefore
intended to ignore them.
Staff asked to see this advice as it was very
different from the advice that the association's own solicitors,
Devonshire's, had given to the association in December 2002. That
advice had stated that the resolutions could bind the MC and the
MC had been since then been acting on that basis. This advice
was the only advice to the association that staff had seen and
concurred with the advice given by solicitors instructed by the
Mrs Reizenstein refused to let staff see the
new advice and on 3 March she announced that the MC had appointed
a Rita Dattani as "Interim Chief Executive".
Staff were unable to find any record in MC minutes
of any decision either to ignore the resolutions or to appoint
an "Interim Chief Executive".
there had been lawful continuing industrial action
short of a strike since January 2003 which required TGWU members
not to co-operate with the implementation of a new structure until
a Security of Employment policy had been agreed;
staff found themselves in an extremely difficult
position when asked to co-operate with and provide facilities
to an "Interim Chief Executive" (ICE) whose legal appointment
the MC were not prepared to substantiate.
Furthermore, it had emerged that the ICE was
not employed by Solon Wandsworth, but was an associate of HACAS
Chapman Hendy, a housing consultancy employed by the MC to formulate
re-structure plans. The appointment had occurred following an
interview with a director of HACAS Chapman Hendy and Mrs Reizenstein
in direct breach of all the association's equal opportunity and
The representative of the recognised trade union
(the TGWU), Seamus MacBride, found himself in a particularly difficult
position when asked to connect the ICE to the association's ITC
systems and refused to do so in the absence of any demonstration
of her legal appointment.
On the evening of Friday 5 March Seamus MacBride,
who is employed as an architect, but also looks after the IT system
and security system on a voluntary basis as part of his collective
duties, was carrying out IT maintenance work which could only
be done when systems were not in use. At about 8pm he found that
a person claiming to be a security guard had entered the building
with apparent instructions to throw him out of the building. The
guard was unable to produce any written authorisation. Seamus
refused to leave until such authorisation was produced. During
the course of these exchanges he was threatened both with police
intervention and with the despatch of a further number of security
guards to eject him. Eventually a letter of authorisation was
faxed and Seamus left.
The Solon Wandsworth building was occupied by
the guards until 8.00am on the Monday and continues to be guarded
every night between 6.30pm and 8.30am the following day.
On the following Monday, 8 March 2004, Seamus
was asked by Linda Hunt, the personnel worker, to come in for
a chat with Rita Dattani and Susan Reizenstein. He asked whether
he would need representation and was told that it was "not
that sort of meetingjust a chat about the IT security."
Notwithstanding this statement, Seamus took
Geoff Martin of the Battersea and Wandsworth TUC with him.
At the meeting, Seamus was given an ultimatum
that if he did not give Rita Dattani immediate access to the IT
system he would be subjected to immediate disciplinary action
and possible dismissal. After conferring with Geoff Martin, he
handed over the server password. After he had done so, Rita Dattani
told him that he was suspended in order for an investigation of
the IT system to take place.
The conduct and outcome of this meeting were
in in clear breach of:
Solon Wandsworth's procedures.
Natural justice and human rights.
The law on the right to be accompanied
All civilised industrial relations
Seamus MacBride has not been told what is being
investigated, why it is being investigated and what it is that
he is alleged to have done or might be about to do that justifies
It is the firm view of the TGWU and BWTUC that
this action has been taken in order to remove Seamus from the
scene while the ICE and MC press on with the re-structure. The
requests of TGWU members to be accompanied and represented by
Seamus at various procedures that are part of the re-structure
are being refused.
We now understand that the "investigation"
of the IT system by the association's IT maintenance company is
now complete and has found nothing untoward. The association refuses,
however, to unsuspend Seamus and has announced a further investigation
of the IT system by an external contractor.
We are extremely concerned about the cavalier
manner in which the association's MC, under the direction of Housing
Corporation appointees, is proceeding. Given that the association
is under Housing Corporation supervision and subject to a Statutory
Inquiry, it would appear that the actions taken must have been
taken with the concurrence of the Housing Corporation.
Not only have the actions described been taken
against staff but the MC has also arbitrarily cancelled a planned
meeting of tenants. This is a clear breach of the HC's Regulatory
Code and tenant involvement policies which require full consultation.