Wishaw & District Housing Association staff begin second strike

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

Workers at Wishaw and District Housing Association will begin four days of industrial action from today, the second strike over working conditions in as many months.

Fourteen members of the Unite union will take part in the strike action between October 28 and November 2, including housing officers, senior staff customer services assistants, cleaners, maintenance assistants, and accounts assistants.

The move follows four previous days of strike action at the end of September.

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.

Wishaw & District Housing Association 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 says this is the latest in a series of attacks on the pay and conditions of its workers.

In a ballot in August, 100 per cent of Unite members voted to take strike action against the cuts.

Unite regional officer Gordon Casey said: “Over the last three years our members 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.

“They have shown good faith and patience with the Association and have always worked hard for the benefit of tenants and the wider community. Instead of being thanked, they have been threatened with further cuts to their conditions.

“We have tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with the Association’s chief executive and Board. Our members have offered them ideas on saving money, none of which have been taken up. We don’t believe these cuts will save money – and we don’t understand why they are being forced on our members at a time when the Association is making a surplus.

“All our members want is fair working conditions, dignity at work and some basic respect for their hard work and the sacrifices they have already made.

“Our message to the Association is clear – Unite will stand behind our members until this matter is properly resolved.”

Speaking to Scottish Housing News, Wishaw & District Housing Association chief executive, Niall Gordon, said the terms on offer are over and above the standard agreed with Unite and the employers’ association Employers in Voluntary Housing (EVH)

He said: “In 2016 EVH carried out an independent review of the Terms & Conditions within Wishaw & District Housing Association.

“This review identified that the Terms & Conditions within Wishaw & District Housing Association were in excess of those agreed between EVH and Unite in the housing sector.

Wishaw & District Housing Association have made a number of proposals to resolve this dispute and Unite members have rejected all proposals.

“With advice and support from EVH, the Board of Wishaw & District Housing Association approved the decision to align the Terms & Conditions with those agreed between Unite and EVH with effect from April 1 2017.

“These additional benefits are:

  1. Private medical insurance: staff benefit from private medical insurance.
  2. Hours of work: staff benefit from only working a 34.5 hour week.
  3. Holiday entitlement: staff benefit from an additional 4 days annual leave.
  4. “These are an extra cost to Residents and the Association.

    “The running costs of Wishaw & District Housing Association are significantly higher than the national average and the Association is currently taking steps to address this.

    “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 tenants and staff.

    “The offices of Wishaw & District Housing Association will remain open throughout and provide a service to its residents.”

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