Branch Secretary :

Strike brings gains at big north east housing association


Union members at Thirteen Group accepted a management offer this week following a bitter industrial dispute involving strike action.  Over time, Unite has achieved union recognition and pushed back anti union moves by the employer as well as achieving important concessions on terms and conditions in a dispute which is significant for workers across the housing sector.



Recently formed through merger, Thirteen manages more than 32,000 homes across the North-east and is now one of the ten largest employers in the region.  It has adopted a combative approach to industrial relations which is increasingly common among housing associations.  Previously it rode roughshod over trade unions, harassed and dismissed shop stewards and derecognised Unite and UCATT.  The dispute demonstrates that it is possible to successfully resist attacks and Unite is well now placed to make further progress; defending members and building organisation.



The first strike day last year involved about 300 Unite members and UCATT had decided to join further action planned for this month.



Concessions achieved compared to initial management position were as follows:
·         Recognition of a normal working week for trades, (8 till 4.30 but with an understanding that we will complete any job started if it can be completed by 5pm) Originally any time between 8am till 8pm
·         An overtime rate of time and a half. Original offer: no overtime rate except on bank holidays.
·         Paid rest period after call out. Original offer: time off by management discretion.
·         Improved flexi scheme, originally by management discretion now with guidance document and more time allowed off in a month.
·         12 month protection for those that have lost essential car user. Original offer: 3 months.
·         Pay award increase 2.5%.  Original offer: 1.5% increased to 2.5% by the first mass meeting.
·         Numerous changes to the contract of employment, originally included enforced overtime, ability for the company to rewrite the terms and conditions with seven days notice, no sick pay for all sporting injuries, agreement to not take cases to the EU courts and to pay for all damage to vans.  All these were removed and other adverse clauses were mitigated.



Staff at Thirteen are represented through a joint union agreement involving: Unite, UCATT, GMB and Unison with Unite now clearly the largest union.  See here for an earlier report on this website.


Paul Kershaw


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