Striking workers at Mears in Manchester are widening their campaign activity to pressurise shareholders and win the hearts and minds of tenants affected by the dispute over pay differentials.
The 170 workers employed by private contractor Mears and joint venture company Manchester Working (operated by Mears) are today undertaking their 31st day of strike action in a dispute which began in May.
The striking workers have recently met tenants’ organisations to explain why workers are on strike. They are now embarking on a leafletting campaign to inform the 12,000 affected tenants in north Manchester, whose properties are managed by Northwards housing association, about what the dispute is about and to apologise for the inevitable backlog in repairs and improvement work.
The workers have been on all-out strike since Saturday July 8 and they are not due to return to work until Monday August 7, during this time there has been a huge increase in delays in repairs. Mears has sought to undermine the dispute by using sub-contractors. Unite understands the sub-contractors are taking a ‘quantity’ rather than ‘quality’ approach to repairs, which will create future problems.
“Unite has consistently warned that tenants would be the innocent victims of Mears failure to resolve these long-running problems,” said Unite regional co-ordinating officer Andy Fisher.
“Tenants are now suffering from a huge backlog of repairs. Unite are in the process of explaining to tenants what the dispute is really about and making it clear that Mears attempts to cut corners could have long-term consequences.
“Our members have only taken strike action as a last resort, after the company for years failed to resolve fundamental problems of pay inequality.”
As well as winning the hearts and minds of tenants, Unite are also undertaking a lobbying exercise to put pressure on the organisations shareholders. Unite has recently staged two demonstrations at shareholder meetings in London.
Last week two meetings were held to try to begin negotiations to resolve the dispute, however these made little progress. Unite are already preparing to re-ballot the workforce with further industrial action pencilled in for the early autumn.
Mears and Manchester Working have failed to deal with the longstanding problems regarding pay differentials which results in workers being paid up to £3,500 less than colleagues for undertaking the same work.
Mears have claimed that they have offered a 10 per cent pay increase to resolve the dispute. However this requires workers to agree to a new contract, which has been described as having more ‘strings than an orchestra.’
The proposed contract includes an increase in hours, flexible working and the greater use of technology. Mears also wants to introduce a ‘productivity procedure’ which has been described as a ‘sacker’s charter’ as any worker deemed not to be working at 95 per cent of capacity, would be subject to disciplinary action.
“As the dispute intensifies Mears needs to understand that our members will leave no stone unturned in our campaign to win justice for our members. The company has it in their hands to resolve the dispute by returning to the negotiating table with a sensible offer,” Fisher added.
“Mears has repeatedly been disingenuous in claiming they offered the workers a 10 per cent increase to workers, their offer was nothing of sort. Their pay rise had more strings that an orchestra and workers were not going to accept an increase in hours, flexible working and the introduction of procedures which allow managers to sack workers on a whim.”