Private contractor Mears, which is at the centre of the housing strikes in Manchester, has been discovered to be using the low rates on its Manchester contract, to suppress pay rates in other areas, such as Leeds, says Unite.
Housing maintenance workers at Mears and joint venture company Manchester Working began their fifth day of strike action on Thursday (May 25) in a dispute over pay differentials and attacks on conditions. Workers at the two organisations earn up to £3,500 a year less than other colleagues who undertake exactly the same work.
Unite has obtained documents from Mears in Leeds, where the company uses the lowest Manchester rates to ‘benchmark’ what it should be paying on their contracts in the city.
Unite also understands that other housing associations and outsourced housing maintenance contracts, particularly in the north west, have undertaken similar ‘benchmarking’ exercises and have used the lowest rate at Mears Manchester and Manchester Working, to deny pay rises, reduce conditions or instigate pay cuts.
Unite regional official Gary Fairclough said, “Mears’ actions are reprehensible not only has it failed to resolve the long-term injustice of its Manchester workforce, but it is knowingly using unjust pay rates to try to suppress wages elsewhere.
“It is deeply troubling that other unscrupulous housing providers are jumping on the bandwagon and attacking pay and conditions by including the lowest Manchester rates in their own ‘benchmarking’ exercises. This creates workplace resentment and is likely to lead to industrial action on other contracts.
“Rather than promoting misery elsewhere management needs to get back round the table and resolve these injustices once and for all.”
The workers are on a rolling programme of strikes with walkouts occurring on Monday, Thursday and Friday each week.
Added to the pay differential issue the workers are also concerned about attacks on their conditions by Mears. The company is seeking to introduce a new contract which seeks to: increase hours, introduce flexible working, requires a greater use of technology, but does not increase pay.
Mears is also seeking to introduce a ‘productivity procedure’ which has been labelled a ‘sackers’ charter’ and has been pressurising the workforce into accepting poorer conditions regarding sick pay and vehicle policies.