Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/770/16919
Housing support workers say 'enough is enough'
Paul Kershaw, Chair, Unite LE 1111 Housing workers' branch
Housing support workers in Unite have voted to take three days' strike action this week against pay cuts by One Housing Group (OHG).
After a pay freeze staff will see their pay cut by an average of £2,000 a year and as much as £8,000 a year in some cases.
One support worker told the Islington Tribune: "I'm on a salary of £27,000 and will be losing £4,000. I have a family to support and a mortgage to pay".
Bizarrely OHG have repeatedly denied Unite's claim that OHG's Chief Executive has taken a £31,000 pay increase lifting his pay, before pension contributions, to £176,000. These figures are taken from the group's annual financial statement.
However, OHG has reported different figures to Inside Housing's survey of bosses' pay. Inside Housing now say they are refusing to comment on this.
Tenants and other stakeholders will ask what credibility OHG's management has left? Already, Islington council has condemned OHG's pay cuts.
A worker told the Socialist: "Many of those affected have been transferred from local authorities. My message to people still working for local authorities is; if we don't win this, it's your future (threatened)."
There have been a number of strikes by support workers around the country recently. The message is 'enough is enough'.
Some employers say they have no choice but to cut wages in order to compete with each other. OHG have boasted that they can undercut directly provided NHS services by 80%.
Unite says this is deeply irresponsible, threatening to push workers into desperate poverty and undermine services.
In Scotland, housing employers take wages out of competition by negotiating a national agreement with proper rates of pay. England and Wales employers should come to a national agreement with the union.
The Unite housing branch has been transformed recently with new activists coming forward and a determination that we won't see our services and our livelihoods destroyed.
We also need a wider fightback and coordinated action but members cannot wait for that to continue their action.
Equinox workers continue pay fight
Workers at Equinox Care solidly supported the second day of strike action on 12 June in our battle against pay cuts.
We have had a three-year pay freeze and our hours were increased last year from 35 to 37.5; in effect staff have been taking a pay cut for the last four years.
Frontline staff were dismayed to be told they had to take further cuts and Unite members voted 98% for strike action.
Chief executive Bill Puddicombe has claimed in the press that the union has chosen to take on Equinox politically but it was his staff who voted to strike.
He also says that it's "a lie" to say he will not speak to the union, but then goes on to say that there was "no chance" that the charity would rethink its proposals.
Puddicombe refuses to go to ACAS arbitration although the union remains open to this route. We have asked for talks but tumbleweed grows while we wait for a response from the chief executive.
Support for the strike continues to come in from unions and the community. One former service user who supported the picket lines said: "These guys saved my life when I was homeless and in despair.
"I was given hope by Equinox and I'm forever grateful for the marvellous help, support and understanding that these workers give to people suffering from the illness of addiction."
"Now that I've got my life back on track I'm giving back and showing my gratitude by volunteering at Equinox.
"I've been working for the last 18 months and I think it's disgusting that these workers are not being properly rewarded for the vital and very difficult work they do - they deserve a decent fair wage, not pay cuts."
A Unite LE 1111 member working for Equinox Care
There are hardship funds for both OHG and Equinox strikes.
Make donations to the hardship fund (marked Equinox or OHG) to Unite branch 1/1111.
Account no: 20040639; Sort code 08-60-01 or by cheque made payable to unite branch 1/1111 and send c/o Nicky Marcus, Housing Workers Regional Officer, Unite the Union, 128 Theobalds Rd, London WC1X 8TN
In The Socialist 19 June 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Fighting the bedroom tax
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reviews