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Manchester housing maintenance dispute steps up action
Paul Gerrard, Salford Socialist Party
In the week after the general election Manchester housing maintenance workers held a two-day mass protest outside Manchester Town Hall. Their dispute is with their employer Mears, but it's the Labour council which has hung them out to dry by passing the contract over to a private company.
At the protest stewards met with the council's head of housing and regeneration for 45 minutes and left him in no doubt about their sense of betrayal, their dispute with the company, and their determination to see successful negotiations.
Mears employees earn up to £6,000 less than workers on the other side of the city. The company claims it wants to see a 'sustainable workforce' yet apprentices are being offered six-month and even three-month contracts on completion. What's next - zero-hours?
Unite the Union is looking to step up the dispute, regularising strike pay and moving to involve other Mears staff who maintain the council's own premises, including the iconic Gothic town hall.
Workers were shocked - but not surprised - by the events in Grenfell Tower, as they work on council housing stock renovation projects. It used to be part of their work to check for potential fire hazards when they visit homes, and either report faults or deal with them while they're there. But nowadays there is relentless pressure to get jobs done, signed off and leave for the next job.
Stewards are rightly angered by the Labour council's actions but welcomed the success for Jeremy Corbyn in the election. One commented that the most encouraging thing was to see young people flooding to support Corbyn in defiance of the "turncoats" in the parliamentary party.
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