Read our full statement on the coronavirus and how we are taking measures to protect our members while calling on the Scottish Government to protect tenants across Scotland.
Dear members and supporters,
We are facing an outbreak of the Coronavirus across the UK, which is particularly threatening to those in our communities who are older and/or have underlying health conditions. As a union, we believe we have a responsibility to our members and staff to ensure that the work you do for the union does not put you at additional risk. In the face of an underfunded NHS and unclear measures proposed by the government, Living Rent strongly believes we need to do all we can to slow down the spread of the virus. The National Committee and the staff team have therefore made the decision to limit the activities of the union until the threat of the virus has decreased.
What does this mean?
We aim to continue building neighbourhood power without putting our health at risk. To the extent that you can, we encourage our members to follow the official NHS public health advice. It is continuously updated and can be found here.
In our local branches, we will limit door knocking activities, ask members attending meetings to follow standard precautionary measures (including hand washing and social distancing) and, when possible, conduct our activities either online or over the phone. If activities and events have been planned with your branch in the next couple of weeks, or while caution is still being advised against the virus, check with your branch organiser to see whether these will go ahead as planned or what alternative plans have been developed. Staff and key members of the union have brainstormed putting in place other tactics, including video testimonies and block noise protests, to ensure that while we will be taking precautions, we remain resourceful and determined to continue to fight for better housing for all!
However, if you are in a branch without an organiser, we encourage you to suspend meetings and outreach activities for the moment, unless you deem it urgent and follow precautionary measures. While we understand - and fully feel - that this is frustrating and that our branches have built timely, relevant, and necessary campaigns, it is essential that the extent of the virus outbreak is limited - especially to protect more vulnerable members of our communities.
Our staff members will remain available on the phone to respond to concerns around the impact this will have on union work. As their outreach work will be limited, they will be focusing on developing our resources (such as general training for all members and clear training paths for secretary, treasurer and chair roles), and will check in with existing members through remote methods. They will remain tasked to build our union to its full capacity! We will also review this position to reflect current developments and advised precautions.
What else can we do?
While ensuring that our members are not at additional risk through the work you do with the union, we want to see that this crisis does not make life harder for those that are already suffering under austerity, universal credit reforms and skyrocketing rent. We know that tenants will be the hardest hit by isolation measures: we often have less financial security, less ability to take time off and less financial support from the government to get help with high housing costs or to be protected from evictions. While bankers, landlords and mortgaged home owners are being supported, the silence of the government regarding tenants and their needs is shocking.
If you follow this link, you will see that we are already calling on the government to give renters the same ‘payment holiday’ that some banks have just granted to those paying mortgages. We are all in this together, and as put by one of our members: “if we're serious about containing the spread of the virus, tenants need to know that they won't face destitution for doing the responsible thing.”
In light of this, we are calling on the Scottish Housing Minister Kevin Stewart to take immediate to protect tenants by instituting:
- Implement a pause on any and all evictions in both the private and social rented sector during the coronavirus pandemic
- Grant all renters affected by coronavirus a ‘rent holiday’ and pause rent collections, including for those who are unable to work or need to self-isolate
You can sign the petition here.
In the meantime, please get in touch if you have any questions, and please take care of each other and fellow union members - even if that means taking a step back.
The National Committee and the staff team