Branch Secretary :

COVID: More housing employers move to essential repairs only

95% support for industrial action


Following representations from Unite members Shepherds Bush Housing Association has agreed to move to a policy of carrying out only essential repairs. Unite welcomes this responsible move which is an appropriate response to the current phase of the pandemic. In Scotland Dundee council have made a comparable move following a threat of industrial action.


Most housing associations have responded responsibly but Unite members in Clarion Housing are continuing to press for change. Clarion, Britain’s largest housing association continues to instruct workers to carry out non-essential repairs.


Support Clarion workers


Workers at Clarion are stepping up their campaign for safety - read more and see model letter for support here.


Pressure from Unite


Unite Scotland has announced that following further discussions with Dundee City Council on January 28th the local authority has agreed to re-categorise twenty-two ‘essential’ work tasks as ‘non-essential’ following pressure from the trade union.


Unite members in the Contract Services division recently held a consultative workplace ballot for industrial action over the ‘essential’ tasks dispute, which received 95 per cent support for taking industrial action from the membership. The potential industrial action, which would have been a first in Scotland over contested non-essential and essential work tasks involved around 300 workers.


Genuine emergency


The union argued that tasks such as repairing extractor fans, covering graffiti, renewing timber posts, and renewing light pendants were not essential, and if genuine emergency work was required then in those circumstances there should be a limit on the number of houses visited per day by a worker to reduce the chances of Covid-19 transmission. Dundee City Council officials have now agreed with the trade union following the threat of an industrial action ballot and the local authority will also implement a rota for workers conducting emergency repairs.


“genuinely fearful about catching or transmitting the virus to tenants, work colleagues or family members” 


Dougie Maguire, Unite Regional Co-ordinating Officer, said: “This is a significant victory for workers in Dundee City Council. Around 300 workers were being exposed to what we consider non-essential tasks. The reality was that our members were genuinely fearful about catching or transmitting the virus to tenants, work colleagues or family members while conducting non-essential work. There’s no doubt that the overwhelming support to move forward with an industrial action ballot over this dispute brought the Council back to its senses, but we are pleased they have recognised the legitimacy of what we have been saying. The victory should also be a message to other local authorities around Scotland that Unite will fight back and contest what we believe to be non-essential work, while our members remain fully committed to providing emergency responses to local communities.”



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