Striking housing workers protested outside Manchester Town Hall

Striking members of Unite, the UK’s largest union, employed on social housing maintenance contracts in Manchester have staged a demonstration outside of Manchester Town Hall, on Monday 15 May at 12pm, demanding the council steps in to resolve a dispute with private contractor Mears and joint venture company Manchester Working.

The workers staged the demonstration as they believed the dispute has partially been caused by the failure of Manchester council to step in and resolve the situation.

The dispute concerned workers being paid different rates for the same work, with pay differentials being as high as £3,500 for the same job. Workers were also angry about attacks on their conditions by Mears, which took over much of the contract in January this year.

The workers, undertake repairs and maintenance work on social housing and public buildings across the city.

Mears was seeking to introduce a new contract that requires workers to have greater flexibility in shift working, work longer hours, weekend working and requires a greater use of technology, without any real increase in pay.

Mears was also seeking to introduce a ‘productivity procedure’ which has been branded a ‘sackers charter’ by the workforce and has been pressurising workers to accept poorer conditions regarding sick pay and vehicle policies.

Tensions in the dispute increased after it was discovered that younger workers have received intimidatory individual communications from management to break the strike.

Following the initial strike there will then be a rolling programme of strike action on Monday, Thursday and Friday of each week.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Andy Fisher said:

“The workforce believe that at any stage Manchester council could have stepped in and ended this dispute. Instead it has washed its hands of the problem.

“Rather than trying to resolve the dispute management have instead sought to intimidate members and in a deeply sinister move they are targeting younger workers.

“If there is no reasonable 11th hour offer put forward by the companies involved then tenants are going to quickly experience substantial delays in urgent repairs and planned maintenance work.”