Mears strikers target housing conference

Mears strikeUnite members are today demonstrating outside the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Housing 2017 conference at the Manchester Central Convention Complex in their long- running dispute with private contractor Mears and joint venture company Manchester Working (operated by Mears) over pay differentials resulting in workers being paid up to £3,500 less for doing the same work.

The 170+ housing maintenance workers employed by the two organisations will be taking part in their 16th day of strike action.

The dispute also concerns attacks on terms and conditions of the Mears workforce. The company is seeking to introduce a new contract which increases hours, introduces flexible working and requires the greater use of technology. Mears is further seeking to introduce a ‘productivity procedure’ which has been described as a ‘sackers charter’ and is trying to pressurise the workforce to accept poorer conditions regarding sick pay and vehicle policies.

The demonstration coincides with the Charted Institute of Housing’s Housing 2017 conference, which includes a session titled ‘Manchester Housing and Devolution’ and is being led by Des Morris, managing director, Manchester Working, Mears Group and Robin Lawler, chief executive, Northwards Housing.

The involvement of Northwards Housing is also controversial. The striking workers undertake maintenance work on the properties that Northwards manages in Manchester. Despite repeated calls for Northward to intervene and help resolve the dispute it has refused to do so.

Unite’s regional co-ordinating officer Andy Fisher said: “Mears and Northwards have got to stop pretending that it is business as normal. They are both involved in a long-running and bitter industrial dispute and workers are going to challenge their presence at every possible juncture.

“It is simply incredible that Mears has the audacity to speak at the Housing 2017 event. Given the way the company treat its workforce I hope that no other social housing organisation attends the talk. Until this dispute is resolved these sharks have absolutely nothing positive to add to the social housing agenda.

“This dispute would never have occurred if housing services hadn’t repeatedly been split up and sold off. Not only is this inefficient and expensive it sowed the seeds for the present dispute. We hope that the new deal for devolution in Manchester will result in housing services being brought back in house under democratic control.”

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