UNISON pledged once more to stand in solidarity with Grenfell Tower victims and survivors, calling for justice for Grenfell, for those responsible to be held to account, and for the permanent re-housing of the survivors within the community of their choice.
The avoidable Grenfell Tower fire and the tragic and needless loss of life has transformed the discussion about the housing crisis, and UNISON is now calling for a comprehensive housing policy that will include not only building new social housing, but moreover ensuring that all public housing is affordable, decent and safe, reinstating and enforcing independent fire safety inspection and building regulation. Integral to these demands is proper funding for Fire and Rescue services, and for local authorities.
Jean Kilpatrick, Glasgow City, supporting the Greater London Region motion, said: “The fire at Grenfell Tower is a symbol of decades of attacks on the working class. At least 72 people died as a result of deregulation, the downgrading of council housing, fire service cuts and contempt for working class people’s cries of protest. Each time a cut was forced through concerns raised being ignored the likelihood of an atrocity like the fire at Grenfell tower was a disaster in the making.”
Jean said: “The protestations from different parties at the enquiry refuting any blame or responsibility should not be accepted from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government all the way down the subcontractors. They all knew what they were doing. Have lessons been learnt?
“Saving money by cutting corners. Crucial health and safety legislation was seen as simply red tape to be ripped up and quietly disposed of. Social housing an eyesore to be covered up. Working class lives were cheap.”
She pointed out that Theresa May tells of her regrets that she didn’t meet the survivors straight after and that James Brokenshire Tory housing minister was concerned about the number of survivors still living in hotels and that such empty claims are absolutely worthless.
Highlighing the extent of the problem, she said: “Hundreds of tower blocks are still death traps a year on, still covered in dangerous cladding. These include hospitals and schools, £400 million set aside for the removal of cladding, not new money, money already in the social housing budget.
“In Glasgow, there are reports of the government wanting to tax the removal of this cladding at the harbour flats – you would think the lesson here is to get the work done as soon as possible.”
She urged: “Let’s prevent another incident like Grenfell. The Grenfell Tower fire was horrific. A symbol of the vast inequality in the richest local authority in Britain. But it could have happened anywhere without real change. Our sorrow and rage over Grenfell Tower should be the motivation to end the class division that produced it in the first place,”