Repairs and maintenance to homes managed by Thirteen, the largest group of housing associations in the north east, could be delayed and postponed in the run-up to Christmas as it becomes embroiled in a pay dispute.
Unite is calling on its 450 members to take part in a continuous work-to-rule, call-out ban and ban on overtime starting just past midnight on Saturday (December 5).
The union says that some of its members could lose as much as £4,000 a year, while the chief executive Alison Thain’s package substantially increased from £158,000 in 2014 to £176,000 for 2015, excluding pension contributions.
Unite members at the housing association responsible for social housing on Teesside, voted for strike action with 70 per cent in favour and by 80 per cent for action short of a strike.
The management offered a 2.5 per cent pay rise for 2015/2016, however it insisted on the new group terms and conditions (t&cs) being accepted as part of the pay award; leaving many members with detrimental take home pay, a reduction in standby/callout payments, removal of the essential car allowance, reduction in overtime rates and the imposition of a pay freeze for 2016/17.
The management has stated its intention to circumnavigate the recognised trades unions and seek volunteers to move onto the new t&cs on an individual basis.
“We had been in talks for nearly two years to try and bring together four different sets of terms and conditions, as a result of the Thirteen Group’s formation in 2014,” Unite regional officer Mike Routledge explained.
“This multi-organisation merger is a result of several housing associations and former council housing organisations coming together as one,” he added.
“Our members have not taken this decision for industrial action lightly,” Routledge went on to say. “They have been pushed to this by the employer, with many members actually worse off if this package were to be accepted as part of their pay claim, with some standing to lose as much as £4,000 a year.
“This was further exacerbated during the Acas conciliation process when the company actually introduced the concept of a pay freeze for next year.”
Routledge criticised the disparity in pay between Thirteen’s workforce and its executive director, who was the beneficiary of double figure pay increases.
He noted that industrial action may mean that repairs and maintenance for the company’s properties will be delayed in the run-up to Christmas.
“However, even at this late stage we are available to engage at any time in meaningful negotiations with the company to try and resolve this dispute,” he added.
“We will be liaising with the other unions representing the 1,400-strong workforce – GMB, Ucatt and Unison – going forward.”
According to Thirteen’s website, the partners own and manage more than 32,000 homes from an area spanning North Tyneside to York, making Thirteen the largest group of housing associations in the North East – and in the top 25 nationally. Thirteen also notes it is one of the ten largest employers in the North East.