Striking repairs and maintenance workers employed by Mears in Manchester are to hold a demonstration outside the headquarters of Northwards Housing today, calling on the organisation to intercede in a dispute over pay.
The workers, members of the Unite union, are employed by Mears and joint venture company Manchester Working, on social housing repairs and maintenance contracts within the city.
They are holding their fourth day of strike action in a dispute over differing rates of pay between workers doing the same work, which the union claims can be as much as £3,500.
The dispute saw industrial action begin earlier this month, with rolling strike days on the Monday, Thursday and Friday of each week.
According to Unite, by holding today’s demonstration outside Northwards’ headquarters, the workers are calling on the organisation to intercede in the dispute and ‘bang heads’ together.
“Northwards Housing is responsible for letting the contracts and has a moral duty to intervene and ensure that Mears and Manchester Working close the pay differentials. Northwards cannot stand idly by as exploitation and injustice occurs on their contracts,” said Unite’s regional officer, Gary Fairclough.
“The demonstration will ensure that bosses at Northwards can no longer pretend they do not know what is happening on their contract and ignore the anger and frustration of the workforce. Our members do not take strike action lightly and the scale of this dispute demonstrates the anger of our members.”
In a statement issued after the rolling programme of industrial action began, Mears said it had made every effort to resolve the dispute. “In November last year, Unite and UCATT rejected our offer to increase pay by 8% – an average increase of £1,800 per employee – and also our offer to eliminate all differentials within trade categories,” said a spokesperson for Mears.
Northwards Housing, an ALMO, manages around 13,000 homes in north Manchester on behalf of the city council.
In a statement issued by Northwards Housing, a senior management spokesperson said, the organisation cannot make any comment about the details of the dispute, which is between Mears and its workforce.
“We are, of course, aware of the dispute but Northwards Housing has no legal right to interfere in a private company’s industrial relations,” the spokesperson said.
“The union’s statement that ‘Northwards Housing is responsible for letting the contracts’ is not correct. In fact, when the previous contract expired, Manchester City Council led the reprocurement which was undertaken strictly in accordance with legally binding EU regulations.
“We hope that Mears will be able to resolve its issues with its workforce quickly. In the meantime, we are working with our contractor to ensure, as far as possible, that there is no inconvenience to our residents.”