Sanctuary housing strike. Photo: Unite housing branch
Sanctuary housing strike. Photo: Unite housing branch

Charles Christodoulou, Unite rep, Sanctuary housing

The London housing maintenance team in Sanctuary Housing is taking strike action on pay and conditions and for union recognition.

It was raining hard as I approached the picket line at 7.10am. Originally I thought: ‘There’s no one here.’ I could see our Unite branch chair, Paul, standing, waiting… and then they started to flock in. Until we were at 27!

I thought to myself: ‘We are ready now’. About half an hour in, our senior management came towards us with a shocked face. They didn’t expect so many, raising our morale. 

We were here to fight for recognition of our union, and also our pay rise. We received a pay cut last year – RPI inflation was at 11.4%, we received 4%. We now know we have been given 4% again, a further pay cut. And now we are also seeking parity with the office staff for our holidays and sickness benefits.

We were contacted by workers in Canterbury asking to join the union. Our colleagues in Essex were asked by management to cover some of our jobs, and they asked: ‘Why do we have to cover London jobs?’ When they were told it was because we are striking they refused to cross our picket line, and this lifted all our spirits.

We have now given notice for further action which will start on 20 March, a further week split over two weeks, and I see this as an opportunity to engage with the areas that have approached us. We can join them up to the union. This year’s campaign for pay will be with our brothers and sisters in Ely, Canterbury, Essex, Rochford and Oxfordshire. I hope with the support of Unite!

Steve O’Donnell, London and Eastern Regional Secretary of Unite, joined the picket and pledged support for the strike. Members of the Unite housing workers branch distributed leaflets on some Sanctuary estates before the strike explaining the issues. Tenants came out of their homes to tell leafleters how much they supported the workers. On the picket line tenants brought money and some home-baked cakes.

  • Contact the branch to offer support, or if you are a housing worker wanting to get organised: [email protected]