Unite is warning that thousands of council and social housing tenants in Kent, as well as the housing maintenance workers who maintain their homes, are being put at unnecessary risk of Covid-19 exposure.
Unite issued its warning after a series of outsourced housing maintenance companies in the county refused to suspend non-essential housing maintenance work during the current lockdown.
This has resulted in housing maintenance workers being unnecessarily forced to enter tenants’ homes, which increases the risk of the tenant, the worker and their respective families of being exposed to catching Covid-19.
The housing maintenance companies that are refusing to restrict their activities during the pandemic are Mears, which undertakes housing maintenance work for East Kent Housing, which in turn manages homes in Canterbury, Margate, Dover and Folkestone.
A separate arm of the same company MPS Mears, which undertakes housing maintenance for Medway council is equally at fault. As is Axis Europe Ltd, which has the maintenance contract for housing association Optivo, which manages social housing in the Swale council area.
Unite has argued that during the lockdown and until it is safe to resume normal working arrangements, only emergency work and essential maintenance procedures (such as mandatory Gas Safe checks) should be undertaken. The union also supports maintenance work being undertaken on void or empty properties provided that strict social distancing measures are in place and enforced.
Unite has raised its concerns over safety with the various companies and has also supplied them with its extensive safety checklist, but has been rebuffed. The union will also be contacting the councils concerned and local MPs warning them of the needless danger that tenants and maintenance workers, are being placed in.
Unite is warning that the unnecessary contact that occurs could lead to increased transmission rates throughout Kent.
Unite regional officer Malcolm Bonnett said, “The companies concerned are refusing to listen to common sense and appear to be putting profits over safety.
“The councils involved and which in many cases still own the properties, must step in and demand that only emergency works are undertaken in people’s homes,” he added.
“Unite will be providing clear advice to our members of their legal right to refuse to work if they believe their health is being placed at risk and immediately remove themselves from danger.”
By Barckley Sumner