Unite members employed in housing maintenance roles at Mears and at Manchester Working (a joint venture operated by Mears) have already taken 40 days of industrial action this summer in a dispute over pay differentials (up to £3,500 for workers doing the same role) and what they consider to be attacks on terms and conditions.
Unite said that the new ballot was “a result of Mears failure to: meaningfully negotiate on pays and conditions, the detrimental treatment of workers during the previous dispute, attacks on workers’ holiday entitlement, allocation of work to subcontractors, inappropriate allocation of work to apprentices, trainees and improvers, and proposed unilateral changes to working hours and conditions for some of the affected workers”.
The ballot for strike action opened this week and closes on Wednesday 18th October. If the workers vote in favour of striking, then action is likely to begin during November and during a period when bad weather increases the likelihood of urgent repairs being needed.
The workers undertake housing maintenance work on 12,000 properties managed by Northwards Housing Association in north Manchester. The contract was tendered by Manchester council.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Any Fisher said: “Unite has given Mears every opportunity to resolve this dispute and Mears has entirely failed to do so. As a result Unite has no option but to ask our members to once again take strike action. If strike action occurs then urgent repairs will not be undertaken and planned maintenance will be delayed. This will seriously affect tenants but Mears has demonstrated it has no interest in their welfare. Mears must return to the negotiating table to finally resolve this dispute and if it resists then Manchester council must make them do so.”
Mears says that the average pay among the Manchester workforce is almost £25,000, including call-out and overtime payments, with the highest earners receiving over £35,000. In June, after prevoius strikes, it offered a 10% increase in pay and 32 days leave per year. This was rejected.
A spokesperson for Mears said: "As we have said before, we have made several attractive offers to Unite, who have shown no willingness to negotiate or in moving forward. Despite this, we continue to maintain good services for our understanding customers and clients."