Fund launched to support Wishaw & District Housing Association strikers

Unite members taking part in September's strike
Unite members taking part in September’s strike

A Scotland-wide strike fund appeal has been launched to support workers taking industrial action at Wishaw & District Housing Association.

Unite members at the housing association started a further four days of strikes, with action also taking place on Thursday 1, Friday 2 and Monday 5 December. The move follows four previous days of strike action at the end of September and four at the end of October.

According to the union, the housing association is looking to take four days’ holiday a year from the staff and to increase their working week by 30 minutes – the equivalent of four additional working days a year.

Unite said this is the latest in a series of attacks on the pay and conditions of workers at the Association.

Wishaw & District Housing Association had previously told Scottish Housing News that the proposed changes to holiday pay and working hours were introduced to align the Association with the rest of the social housing sector.

Unite regional officer Gordon Casey said: “We are asking all our branches in Scotland to contribute to the Wishaw strike fund – including all our branches throughout the housing association sector. The union is determined that our members at Wishaw get all the support they need in their fight for fair conditions.

“Our message to the housing association board is that this dispute will not simply go away. I make an offer here and now to sit down with them to discuss how we can move forward, so that our members can go back to what they do best – working hard every day for the benefit of tenants and the wider community in Wishaw.

“On behalf of our members, I’d also like to once again thank the people of Wishaw for their support, especially those who are tenants of the housing association. It has been overwhelming, and very much appreciated.”

Unite said that over the last three years its members at Wishaw & District Housing Association have accepted their pensions being massively reduced, their wages being cut, their bereavement leave being reduced almost by half, and lunchtime opening to provide a better service to tenants.

Some 14 Unite members at the Association are involved in the dispute, including housing officers, senior staff customer services assistants, cleaners, maintenance assistants, and accounts assistants. All of the members voted to support industrial action in a ballot in August.

Speaking to Scottish Housing News, Wishaw & District Housing Association chief executive, Niall Gordon, said: “The Terms & Conditions within Wishaw have been historically higher and in excess of those agreed and negotiated between EVH and Unite union within the housing sector.

“The Board at Wishaw & District Housing Association wish to align these with the Terms and Conditions that exist throughout the sector.

“The Board of Wishaw & District Housing Association believes it would be irresponsible not to take steps to reduce the costs to the organisation and wish to ensure that the long term viability of the organisation is secured for both tenants and staff.

“The alignment of Terms and Conditions is part of this process and ensures that Wishaw & District Housing Association limits and minimises the impact of savings required in other areas.

“The additional benefits that staff in Wishaw receive are Private medical insurance, extra holidays and a reduced working week, the additional cost to the tenants of Wishaw & District HA is approximately £30,000 per year: and are paid through tenants rent money (nearly 1 per cent of the Associations Rental Income).

“Wishaw & District Housing Association have made a number of attempts to negotiate a settlement with staff to avoid service disruption, however, these have all been rejected by staff representatives.

“Wishaw & District Housing Association remain committed to providing a full service to resident to ensure that rent levels remain affordable for the tenants of the Association.”

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