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Pressing ahead

Housing workers announce extensive strike action
Barckley Sumner, Monday, November 6th, 2017


Members of Unite employed by Mears in Manchester in housing maintenance roles will begin a programme of 49 days of strikes next week.

 

The strike action begins with a 48-hour stoppage on November 16 with the final wave of strikes ending on February 9, 2018. The new strike dates follow last month’s announcement that the membership had overwhelmingly voted for fresh strike action.

 

The workforce has already taken 40 days of strike action this year in a dispute over pay differentials which results in the workers at Mears and Manchester Working (a joint venture company operated by Mears) being paid up to £3,500 less for the same work.

 

The 180 workers undertake housing maintenance work on 12,000 properties managed by Northwards housing association, although the contract is tendered by Manchester council.

 

The fresh round of industrial action coincides with the period when bad weather is most likely and when housing repairs are most often needed.

 

The resolve of the workforce has been increased by the disingenuous information issued by Mears. The company had claimed that it had made a 10 per cent pay offer to resolve the dispute, but failed to mention this was then withdrawn and would have required the workforce to work an extra two hours a week, therefore making it virtually worthless in real terms.

 

The pay offer also contained the requirement that the workforce agree to a productivity procedure labelled a ‘sacker’s charter’ as it would make it easy for Mears to dismiss virtually all members of the workforce.

 

Mears had also incorrectly claimed that workers were generally on £25,000 per annum when in reality just a handful of workers are on this rate and most are paid just £22,000 a year. It is these pay differentials which has caused the initial dispute.

 

Mears also claimed that workers could be earning up to £35,000 but this only applies to a small number of Mears contracted engineers, rather than the ex-local authority workers who are involved in the dispute and would still require these workers to be undertaking regular call outs.

 

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Andy Fisher, said, “Mears has again been given the opportunity to resolve this dispute following the overwhelming vote for strike action. Once again they have squandered this opportunity.

 

“Strike action is being taken as a last resort and will unfortunately inevitably result in widespread disruption to tenants of Northwards housing.

 

“Unite has attempted to persuade Northward to put pressure on Mears to resolve the dispute but that has not occurred, perhaps due to the close relationship between the management of the two organisations,” he added.

 

“The deliberate misinformation by Mears about what workers earn has only strengthened the resolve of the workforce to press ahead with the strikes. Our members know the truth about what they are actually paid.”

 

Workers at Mears in Manchester and at Manchester Worker will undertake a series of 48-hour strikes on November 13, 16, 20, 23 and 27; December 4, 7, 11, 14, 18, 21, 28; January 4, 8, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 29; and February 1, 5 and 8.

 

The same workforce will also take part in 24-hour strikes on November 30, December 1, and January 2.

 

The new industrial action is being taken as a result of Mears failure to meaningfully negotiate on pay and conditions; the detrimental treatment of workers during the previous dispute; attacks on workers’ holiday entitlement; allocation of work to sub-contractors; inappropriate allocation of work to apprentices, trainees and improvers; and proposed unilateral changes to working hours and conditions for some of the affected workers.

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