Staff at housing association, One Housing Group (OHG) have voted overwhelmingly for strike action, following management's decision to impose wage cuts to 200 frontline supported housing staff from February 2014.
Unite, the country’s largest union, is highly critical of OHG’s chief executive, Mick Sweeney for accepting a £31,000 hike in pay and bonuses, while asking 200 support workers to accept cuts of up to £8,000-a-year, averaging £2,000 for most.
Unite members voted by a margin of 83.7 per cent in favour of strike action. Strikes are likely to take place from mid-June.
The ballot result comes at a time when OHG’s surplus has soared, with a 200 per cent rise in the supported housing wing alone, as it continues to win massive - and lucrative - contracts from local authorities.
Unite regional officer, Nicky Marcus said:“OHG has been awarded dozens of contracts by local authorities worth millions, the bulk of which cover workers’ wages. If management cut wages mid contract, or indeed, in some cases at the beginning of the contract, the question for councils, commissioners and council tax payers must be: ‘Where is that money going?’
“No one contemplates strike action lightly; least of all workers wholly committed to providing essential support for the vulnerable clients in their care, but our members have been left with little choice.
“Many have worked there for years and are highly experienced and skilled. Following a three-year pay freeze amounting to a 13 per cent cut in real terms, they are now being asked to accept massive cuts and wages lower than those they earned fifteen years ago.
“Management's assertion is that because a few housing associations pay less than OHG, support workers’ wages should slide downwards to meet the lowest common denominator.
“However, they never apply the same logic to themselves: rather, they say managers and chief executives out there are paid more than us so our wages must rise accordingly.
“Our members have steadfastly rejected various management offers to cushion the implementation and speed of the cuts because the cuts are simply unfair and unjustified.
“These cuts will have a hugely detrimental effect not only on the staff involved and their families, but OHG’s clients and communities as skill and experience are inevitably driven out of the care and support sector.
“Those not affected by the cuts are being offered a derisory £550 non-consolidated bonus. Unite can accept neither cuts for some nor derisory awards for others.”
OHG has resolutely declined the opportunity to involve Acas. Unite calls on the management to reconsider and get around the table for meaningful and constructive talks.
For further information, please contact Nicky Marcus on 07779 800607 and/or Unite senior communications officer, Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.