Housing association impasse

Clarion Housing Group presses ahead with routine repairs, despite Covid-19 fears, says Unite

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Clarion Housing Group, one of the UK’s largest social landlords, is still continuing to insist on pushing ahead with routine repairs at its properties, despite some residents being Covid-19 positive, Unite said today (January 21).

Yesterday (January 20), Unite had a meeting with senior management, following a petition of more than 200 maintenance staff being presented calling for ‘essential repairs only’ as the pandemic continues to be widespread.

Unite regional officer Matt Freeman said, “Despite the issues raised, the key takeaway from the meeting was that Clarion is not changing its position. However, the managers did commit to investigate the clear issues that have been raised by Unite.

“Clarion’s position essentially is that jobs are safe under the current regime,” he added. “It maintains that if any Covid-19 measures are not adhered to, for example, social distancing of all members of a household including children, then the job can be rejected by the individual operative and that no employee will be disciplined or threatened for rejecting a job that they did not feel was safe.

“However, examples were given where disciplinary action has been threatened, if jobs are refused. The managers said this was not acceptable and they did not want people to be going in to jobs, if they felt coerced.

“Given these assurances, our members should not feel pressurised to complete jobs if they feel they are unsafe,” Freeman noted. “Unite will back any member who faces threats or disciplinary action for rejecting a job they genuinely felt was not Covid-19 safe.

“We believe the safest option is to follow the lead of six of the 12 largest housing associations in London and remove a significant amount of risk by stopping routine repairs.

“We are also concerned that those, who are vulnerable or have childcare responsibilities, should be given the opportunity to be furloughed – Clarion has not taken up the government’s furlough schemes. At present, staff are being told to take annual or unpaid leave or reduce their hours, if no other options are available.

“There was no answer from management specifically on the issue of what happens if a staff member exhausts their entitlements and cannot return to work, although they did highlight that they would be as flexible as possible,” he continued.

“Obviously, this is an ongoing situation and yesterday’s meeting did not provide the necessary satisfactory answers – we reached an impasse. We will be discussing with our members the next steps.

“However, we are keen to resolve the outstanding issues in a constructive fashion.”

By Shaun Noble

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