Goodlord strike forces talks – solidarity needed for crucial dispute

by James Ivens, East London Socialist Party

The strike at lettings tech platform Goodlord has forced bosses into talks at mediation service Acas. Members of general union Unite in the tenant-referencing department are continuing their indefinite stoppage to restore the London Living Wage.

Meanwhile, the action has compelled the Living Wage Foundation to disaccredit Goodlord. Angry strikers are determined not to let management get away with it.

Regular picket lines at the office in Spitalfields, east London have received some visits from the establishment media, but with little published. The strike marched noisily through Brick Lane on 30 April to publicise the dispute. “We say no to: fire and rehire! You say Goodlord, we say Badlord! We want the living wage – when do we want it? Now!”

Socialist Students activists have collected sheets and sheets of solidarity signatures from University of the Arts London students. On the same Friday, they visited estate agents in Camberwell, south London, demanding they not use Goodlord during the strike.

Student support

Now is peak time for students seeking accommodation. Students’ unions should make public statements supporting the strike and calling on estate agents to withdraw from Goodlord.

Charlotte Street Capital, an investor in Goodlord, has quibbled about the strike’s opposition to ‘fire and rehire’. Employment law tends to be stacked in the capitalists’ favour — but the financiers need a refresher on this point.

Legally, failure to renew a fixed-term contract is a dismissal. Reengagement on inferior pay and conditions absolutely is fire and rehire.

Fire and rehire should be banned. As we go to press, just ahead of polling day, where is the backing from London election candidates?

Blairite Labour mayor Sadiq Khan is silent. But Socialist Party members standing with the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition have visited the picket line regularly.

The implications for all London office workers are weighty if attacks like this pass unchallenged. The bosses argue that remote working means their London workers don’t need London pay levels. This is a strike the whole London trade union movement needs to get behind.

Goodlord strikers fight fire and rehire as part of day of action

29 APRIL 2021

by Ferdy Lyons, East London Socialist Party

Unite the Union held a mass picket outside the tenant referencing company Goodlord on 26 April as part of a day of action against ‘fire and rehire.’

Goodlord staff are currently on strike over cuts to their pay and conditions, and members of the Unite tech workers’ branch, Unite Community branches, Unite housing workers branch, National Shop Stewards Network and Socialist Party members all brought solidarity.

Jeremy Corbyn addressing Goodlord Picket Line

The picket was used as a launch for Unite’s national campaign against fire and rehire, with a large new banner to match.

The picket was also attended by Howard Beckett, Unite assistant general secretary, who is leading the new campaign and the ex-Labour leader and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn who both addressed the picket.

Corbyn rightly pointed out the working class needs to fight, and the Goodlord strikers represent the best of what the labour movement stands for.

The Socialist Party stands in solidarity with Unite the Union and the Goodlord strikers in demanding the outlawing of fire-and-rehire tactics and for Goodlord to come to the table and meet the strikers’ demands and settle the dispute.

Goodlord strike starts to bite

Original article 12 March 2021, updated 17 and 26 March and 1 April 2021

by East London Socialist Party

The all-out action at lettings platform Goodlord is making headway. Strikers remain firm while pressure is rising on bosses at the tech firm in Spitalfields, east London.

The tenant-referencing department is essential to the business. Insurance sales to letting firms are key to Goodlord’s revenue, and referencing checks on tenants are key to the insurance.

Mistreated

However, workers in tenant referencing have been badly mistreated by management. (See ‘Goodlord striker speaks out: workers have to fight for our skills to be appreciated’ at socialistparty.org.uk.)

The strikers’ union, Unite, is demanding restoration of the London Living Wage. That’s a mere £10.85 an hour. Management says that remote working means staff don’t need it anymore – a warning to all London office workers.

Goodlord Strikers 12th March 2021
Photo: Scott Jones, East London SP

Pickets have heard that morale among those still at work in tenant referencing has plummeted. With experienced staff on strike, errors are multiplying and service levels faltering. Clients will not be pleased.

Goodlord founder and chief operating officer Tom Mundy has been met with vibrant, determined picket lines.

Bosses enter the office to chants of “you say Goodlord, we say Badlord” and “we want a living wage! When do we want it? Now!”

It’s in management’s power to end the strike. A living wage and permanent contracts could have workers back in and cleaning up the mess their bosses have made in no time.

Goodlord workers continue all-out strike

by Ferdinand Lyons, East London Socialist Party

Tenant-referencing workers at the tech firm Goodlord were out on strike again on 18 and 19 March against the company’s attempts at slashing wages using fire and rehire.

Once again, there was a mass picket outside their offices in East London, with members of the Unite tech workers branch, two Unite Community branches, Unite Housing workers branch and Socialist Party members all attending.

Howard Beckett, Unite assistant general secretary, attended on 18 March showing solidarity from the wider union and calling for Goodlord to abandon its attempt. Like previous pickets, it was very lively, with the strikers determined to carry on with the action until their demands are met. We can’t rely on the bosses to self-regulate fair pay, we need a £15 minimum wage now and we need an end to fire and rehire.

by Scott Jones, East London Socialist Party

Tenant-referencing workers at the tech company Goodlord in east London were again out on strike on 12 March against the company’s attempts at ‘fire and rehire’.

The strikers, members of the Unite union tech workers branch, are employed on rolling fixed-term contracts. When Goodlord offered them their new contracts, a 20% pay cut had been applied so the workers are now calling for the restoration of their previous terms and conditions of the London Living Wage.

There was huge support for the picket line from tech workers in the Communication Workers Union, other Unite members, the NSSN, and eight members from three Socialist Party branches bringing solidarity.

The workers are proud to be out on strike and determined to win: “It’s ridiculous what they are doing and we can’t let them get away with it. We are fighting for everyone to stop this practice,” said one.

We can’t rely on the bosses to self-regulate fair pay, we need a £15 minimum wage now and we need an end to fire and rehire.

The workers are out on indefinite strike and the next picket line is 11.30am to 1pm on 18 March.

Goodlord striker speaks out: ‘workers have to fight for our skills to be appreciated’

by James Ivens, East London Socialist Party

Tenant referencing workers at tech company Goodlord, organised by general union Unite, are on all-out strike against ‘fire and rehire’ wage cuts. Striker Athena Parnell spoke to James Ivens, East London Socialist Party, about the issues facing tech workers and all workers fighting back.

JI: What is Goodlord? What do you do?
AP: Goodlord is a tech company, a platform for letting agents. They also offer referencing services to check on potential tenants, and insurance for letting agents. I work in the referencing team.

JI: What is the strike demanding?
AP: The London Living Wage – ideally for everyone, but at least for everyone in London. And permanent contracts.

JI: How has management provoked it?
AP: Until I joined in March, most of the referencing workers were employed through a temp agency. I was part of the first batch hired on fixed-term contracts, for six months.

We live in London and were hired because the office is in London. We were told that because we deal with confidential information we need to work from the office. When the first lockdown started, our group was the last allowed to leave the office.

Picket Line at Goodlord

In July, a group of us got together and asked management for a conversation. These jobs are not unskilled. They require two or three months’ training.

So we felt we had something to offer them as workers; we wanted them to offer us permanent contracts. Due to the pandemic, we were afraid that at the end of six months we were going to lose our jobs.

They rudely refused to talk to us about that. This broke a lot of people’s hearts. The company pushes the propaganda that we are a ‘family’; we ‘love each other’; free beer – you know what I mean. They pose as a start-up to avoid giving us normal conditions and wages.

We were told there would be a restructuring in the department. A consulting company was hired to make the referencing department more ‘viable’ for the business. Our contracts got extended until the end of January.

We heard nothing from the consulting company. Then management notified us of a big announcement at the end of October.

One day before our big announcement, the company announced that many management positions were getting a promotion or more money. So we were quite excited!

JI: What was the big announcement?
AP: They announced an offer of permanent contracts – with a 25% pay cut. I am on £24,000; they want to reduce my salary to £18,000.

They said that since the job can now be done from home, they are no longer going to pay the London Living Wage. This absolutely made us mad. Every single person there lives in London.

I accepted a contract extension until the end of April. The company offered us one week of pay if we quit.

JI: What were you expecting?
AP: There is no hierarchy in our department. No seniors, no leads. Everyone is responsible for training. Logically we expected a restructure to be a restructure – assigning responsibilities. It turned out just to be pay cuts.

JI: How did you respond?
AP: At that point we wrote a letter to the company, from almost everybody in the referencing department. We asked for a collective consultation. Hear us out. Let’s just be a bit more logical about the options.

They absolutely refused. There could be individual consultation, but no collective consultation.

My colleagues tell me that one of the managers said “we don’t have to negotiate with you collectively, it’s not like you’re in a union.” That’s when some of us organised to join the union.

JI: How did you organise?
AP: It’s quite hard to organise during the lockdown. We invited people to have personal conversations via Zoom and WhatsApp. We had a group working together.

By the middle of November, some of us were reaching out to colleagues, some of us were drafting letters, and some of us were reaching out to unions. The response from Unite the Union was overwhelmingly positive, so all of us decided to join Unite.

Unite said it was good we had written the collective letter and tried to negotiate first. Management couldn’t say we hadn’t tried to act reasonably.

We got help from the union on legal next steps and filed a collective grievance and at the same time, we discussed to start balloting for industrial action. The procedure can take a long time, and we’ve been assured we can call it off at any time we want.

Our grievance and letters were simply ignored until the ballot notice reached the company.

By the time they decided to hear our grievance out, it was January and we had voted for industrial action. Then the talks finally started. We even postponed the strike, hoping for a resolution. They didn’t offer one.

JI: Have you reached other departments?
AP: Other workers in the company have joined Unite. But it is a challenge not being able to talk to people in person.

The wider company didn’t know much beyond what management told them. In this age, when people are working from home, management can more easily control the narrative. We started to send emails informing colleagues about things.

I would say you need to try everything you can to reach out to people personally. Management has the resources to push their agenda in every meeting, in every one-on-one.

I think people need to feel the personal touch, something heartfelt. This issue is not just paper-pushing. There are real people involved whose lives are enormously affected.

A single mum has already had to give up this job. She left in January because she could not take care of her child on this salary.

I believe you have to find a way, through social media or whatever, to share these stories. As individual employees you can suffer repercussions for speaking out against the company on social media – so this is also where the union comes in.

JI: What is management’s attitude to your demands?
AP: Absolutely negative. After we declared we had joined the union, management started attacking us in meetings.

There was a quite bad ‘company-wide huddle’, where management called us an “attack coming from inside.” That had a negative effect on people all over the company, not just in the referencing department. So the next week management backed off.

They created something called the ‘feedback group’. A separate meeting – for the whole department – excluding the union.

We had to vote for representatives on this group. They clearly forged the votes; even those who hadn’t joined the union were still supportive of it. They use this group to pretend to listen.

The rest of the company gets three months’ maternity leave. Referencing gets six weeks. Management pushed up the maternity leave. We said: are you kidding? Why aren’t we already aligned with the rest of the company?

Management gave the rest of the company holidays and unlimited sick leave during the pandemic. We got three days’ sick leave. We got them to increase this to ten days.

It’s a joke. They don’t lose money. They told us that on average, staff take 0.5 sick days a year. If that’s true, why didn’t you give us the same as the rest of the company?

At the ‘huddle’ on the last day before our strike, they attacked the strike. They said something like “we’ve faced problems before, but we’re going to sort it out as a team. This is like a football match…” They named people who were forwards, people who were backs… “We’re going to score, we’re going to win this game!”

They asked for questions. One of my amazing colleagues told them: “We never took going on strike lightly. We never wanted it to come to this. Listening to you treating this situation as a game is horrific.” Then there was silence!

JI: More and more workers at tech companies are getting organised. Why do you think that is?
AP: The tech industry is booming right now. Exploitation started right out of the gate. This is an industry that needs unions and sticking together as much as possible in future. We have to fight, for better salaries and being more appreciated.

I would even make a comparison to the industrial revolution to what’s happened in the last 20 years. Especially since the recession, companies and people with power are on our backs exploiting us.

Think about how much of a wage gap there is between a programmer and a person who owns the company. Why is that?

I would like to reach out to the IT side, to the programmers and designers. How is it that you create all these things, yet you can barely buy your own place?

How is it that there is a gigantic ravine between you, who sell your skills, and people who own the property? You should stick together, from the entry-level to the most skilled!

For the past 20 years, we’ve just believed this bullshit that companies have to cut our salaries for economic reasons. I think everybody in the tech industry could earn more.

JI: What would you say to other workers facing ‘fire and rehire’ tactics?
AP: Unionise! Sticking together and fighting for our rights is crucial right now.

Other companies are going to use the pandemic in the same way as ours. They’ve already said to us: “You’re working from home? I’m paying you less, then!” You have no right to decide what I spend my money on!

Everybody who sells their skills, and that’s how you make your living – we have to stick together to negotiate against those who own stuff.

Wherever you came from, wherever you’re going, whatever you do. We have to stick together and fight for our skills to be appreciated.

JI: That’s what Karl Marx said – and the Socialist Party agrees! So how can people support your strike?
AP: We have a strike fund. We’ve had some donations, which is amazing and we really appreciate it.

But also what we would appreciate is people getting in touch with Goodlord and telling them what you think of them. They pretend they are not, but they are proud of their reputation.

Supporting our picket lines would also be amazing.

Support the strike!

  • Messages of support to [email protected]
  • Email complaints to [email protected]; tweet complaints to @sogoodlord
  • Strike fund donations to Unite LE/7098L London ITC Branch, sort code 60-83-01, account 20303680, reference Goodlord

See also:

Earlier article on this site

Earlier article from The Socialist