Industrial action 'on the cards' at housing association

Shift pattern changes at Liverpool housing association prompts prospect of industrial action

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The prospect of industrial action is on the cards at the Liverpool-based Riverside Housing Association over detrimental shift pattern changes for 100 customer service staff.

Unite has fired a warning shot across the bosses’ bows after its members at the three call centres – Carlisle, Liverpool and Irvine (Ayrshire) – overwhelmingly rejected the proposals.

The biggest change is the introduction of a flexibility clause that would mean that with 30 days’ notice an employee, who mostly works morning and early afternoon, could be told to start at 14.00 and finish after 21.00.

The management also wants to alter the number of hours worked from between 16 to 35 hours-a-week, again, with 30 days warning – which could mean a loss of income for some workers.

A key objection is that the customer service staff, many of whom have more than 15 years’ service, have had the same set hours for many years which dovetail with their childcare and any health needs.

Unite said that these proposals, announced in January before lockdown, show a lack of consideration for the employees’ work/life balance, and will lead to permanent uncertainty of both their hours of work and income.

When staff met with management to discuss the change in shifts, they had not released details of how Riverside could change both their shifts and the number of hours they work without consultation.

Unite said that the next step is to involve the conciliation service Acas, and, if that fails, the prospect of an industrial action is very much on the cards.

Unite regional officer John Sheppard said, “The management wants to push through proposals that will have a detrimental impact not only on our dedicated members’ work/life balance but also, in some cases, the possibility of loss of income if their hours are reduced unilaterally.

“The cost-saving aspect of this plan is minor compared with the major changes to our members’ lives and bank balances.

“So far, informal consultations have failed to resolve the issues regarding this attack on their long-established terms and conditions,” he added. “We have tried to negotiate in a constructive manner, but to no avail. The next step is to involve the conciliation service Acas and, if that fails, we will consider a ballot for industrial action.”

Unite has about 1,000 members working nationally for the Riverside Housing Association which started life in 1928 as Liverpool Improved Houses.

By Shaun Noble

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