William Eichler 15 April 2019

Council employees balloted for strike action

Newham council workers are threatening the council with strike action after the authority proposed a new pay structure that would lead to cuts.

Unite said that 75 housing repairs employees are being balloted for strike action because the council is threatening to cut pay by 20% without speaking to the individuals concerned.

The council argues that these figures are 'incorrect'.

This follows last week’s news that 45 Newham refuse workers will also be balloted for strike action over the council’s failure to progress them through the grading structure.

Unite claims that this should have commenced 12 years ago and estimates that the individuals concerned could have lost up to £20,000 each as a result.

‘It is becoming increasingly apparent that Newham council is beleaguered by a very poor employment relations culture – the results of which are coming home to roost,’ Unite regional officer Onay Kasab.

‘To paraphrase Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell: for the council to have one strike ballot may be regarded as a misfortune; to have two looks like carelessness.’

‘Unite is conducting these two strike ballots to defend the pay and health & safety of our members,’ he continued.

‘However, Unite’s door is always open for constructive talks with the council’s management to resolve these issues and formulate a new positive model for employment relations.’

'Negotiations with local Unite representatives are on-going, and the figures regarding a loss of income are incorrect. They are based on a misunderstanding about a new pay structure, which has since been cleared up,' a council spokesperson said.

'The proposed pay re-structure has been introduced to improve the performance of parts of our repairs service.

'Under previous arrangements some employees worked as if they were independent traders, charging labour at a fixed percentage of the total cost of the repair or work. This system was found to be open to potential abuse and was also found to disincentivise the completion of low value repairs and resident satisfaction with the work was not a priority.

'The proposes replacement pay structure is currently the subject of consultation. It breaks the link between earnings and the total value of a job, instead earnings will be based on the completion time for a given piece of work. These timings are based on the National Housing Federation standard calculations of minutes for repairs jobs.'

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