Aberdeen housing officers vote for industrial action
Housing officers at Aberdeen City Council have voted to go on strike next month amid claims they are under “mounting pressure” to manage an increased workload as a result of a rise in housing arrears and homelessness in the city.
A ballot held by trade union Unite earlier this month saw 79% of participants vote in favour of industrial action and 92% in favour of taking industrial action short of a strike, with a turnout of 65%.
Unite has confirmed that around 40 of its members in Aberdeen City Council’s housing services department now intend to take industrial action from June, with exact dates still to be confirmed.
The ballot result follows months of Unite members working in housing officers and support officers warning they had reached “breaking point”. Unite has warned of the damaging effects on work morale resulting from cuts to the housing support service along with greater pressures on the workforce due to a rise in housing arears and homeless figures in the local authority area.
Figures released last month revealed that rent arrears have risen from £2.6 million in 2015-16 to £7.9m in 2020-21 within the Aberdeen City local authority area.
Scottish Government statistics also highlight that the city had 1,486 homeless applications in 2019-20, up from 1,285 in 2015-16.
Unite claims the situation has been caused by a rise in housing arrears, which it says is directly related to the “massive economic disruption” caused by Covid-19.
John Boland, Unite industrial officer, said: “Unite’s members in the housing services department in Aberdeen City Council have voted to take strike action by a huge margin. The ballot result reflects the depressing reality that our members have taken on a massive increase in their workload while investment in the service has been continuously cut.
Industrial action will begin in June as our members are determined to take a stand over the lack of support by Aberdeen City Council. We believe the public will support our members because ultimately the public and those most in need are being given a poorer service due to these cuts. Unite believes the workers and the people of Aberdeen deserve better.”
Aberdeen City Council said the local authority is willing to reopen talks with the union over the dispute in a bid to avoid the walkout.
“It is very disappointing that members of Unite the Union have narrowly voted for strike action in the midst of a consultation to improve services,” a spokesman told the Evening Express.
“Those voting for action represent a small proportion of our housing staff, the majority having engaged positively on proposals to invest in staff, reduce the average tenancy workload per officer, and make it easier for residents to access support.
“We hope Unite the Union choose to resume dialogue in the interests of transforming services for everyone.
“In the meantime, we will continue to meet the needs of all our housing customers.”