Shock survey shows a third of Mears workers suffer mental health problems

A confidential survey of workers employed by Mears in Manchester and joint venture company Manchester Working (operated by Mears) has revealed very high levels of mental health problems and stress among its workforce.

The Unite survey was made public yesterday, as the workers resumed industrial action in their long-running dispute over pay. The Unite members have already taken have already taken 40 days of strike action this year in a dispute over pay differentials which results in workers being paid up to £3,500 less for doing the same work. They are taking a further 49 days’ action running until February 2018.

Levels of mental ill health were found to be very high with 37% of the workers confirming they had suffered an illness; principally depression and anxiety. Of these workers a staggering 89% believed that work had contributed to their illness and in three quarters of cases the illness was so severe that time off work was necessary. Once again 59% of sufferers had not raised their illness with management.

The survey further found that 91% of the workforce was suffering from stress, with 98% of these sufferers believing that work had contributed to their condition. Despite this 63% had not informed the employer about their condition, for a third of these workers the condition was so severe that they had to take time off work.

In a damming indictment of Mears’ management, 79% of the workforce said that their health had deteriorated in the last 12 months, with 70% recording that both their physical and mental health had been affected. Disturbingly 92% of workers said that Mears’ management took neither their physical or mental health seriously.

Unite has shared the findings of the survey with both Andy Burnham the Mayor of Greater Manchester and with Sir Richard Leese and other members of Manchester council’s executive and requested that both organisations intervene to resolve the crisis.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Andy Fisher said: “The findings of this survey are truly shocking and demonstrate that bad management by Mears is making workers ill. It is imperative that if Mears has any regard for their workforce they will act on these findings immediately.”

The workers undertake housing maintenance work on 12,000 properties managed by Northwards Housing as well as other maintenance work on Manchester council properties. The contract is tendered by Manchester council.

In the period prior to the latest strike action beginning Mears has not sought to reach a negotiated settlement, instead using their energies to try to weaken the workers’ resolve by bullying and intimidating younger workers.

It is estimated that it would cost Mears one per cent of the contract’s value to resolve the strike.

Andy Fisher added: “It is frankly astonishing that Mears is not seriously attempting to resolve this long-running dispute. They would be far better devoting their energies to finding a settlement than bullying Unite members.

“The strike action will unfortunately cause inconvenience to tenants of Northwards but this is purely a result of Mears’ refusal to resolve the dispute, which would cost comparatively loose change for a multi-million pound organisation. No worker takes strike action lightly and Unite is fully prepared to return to the negotiating table, provided that Mears is serious about resolving this dispute.”

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