Sanctuary strike. Photo: London SP
Sanctuary strike. Photo: London SP

Nick Auvache, Camden and Haringey Socialist Party

Benefits are up, pensions are up, rents are up, but housing association Sanctuary still refuses to raise wages by anything approaching those basic levels. In April, state benefit levels rose by 6.7% and pensions by 8.5%. This means that even this miserly Tory government offered increases that massively outstrip what Sanctuary management believe their workers deserve.

This year, most of Sanctuary’s maintenance workers have seen a 4% pay increase imposed on them. This comes on top of a 4% rise in last year’s pay. Sanctuary maintenance workers have suffered a 9.5% decline in their real wages since 2021.

Why are Sanctuary’s management so mean? Are they in financial trouble? Do they not have the money to pay? Are maintenance workers less productive than last year? ‘No’ is the answer to all these questions.

Sanctuary recently announced a whopping increase of 79% to pre-tax profits to £101.3m, but the benefits of this bonanza have not been felt by staff. In its latest financial statement, the employer boasts that “Sanctuary is pleased to report a strong performance for the financial year 2022-23. The last 12 months have seen another period of growth and recovery from the pandemic.” Yet neither last year nor this year have workers seen the benefit of this, with two below-inflation pay awards.

There is no good reason why Sanctuary should deprive workers of pay increases which match the rise in the cost of living. Unite the Union believes it is unacceptable for an organisation such as Sanctuary to consistently cut staff’s real wages, especially during a period that they themselves describe as one which has seen “strong growth”. If workers accept wage cuts during these periods, what on earth can we expect if Sanctuary’s fortunes take a turn for the worse? Pay is one reason why these workers have just announced a further four days strike action, on 21, 23, 28, and 30 May, on top of the 17 days they have taken so far. Strikers were pleased to receive support from suspended Labour MPs Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn at their latest strike rally.