RMS: Dates set for strike action across council housing repairs service

The Bridge Road depot in Stratford. Picture: Polly Hancock

The Bridge Road depot in Stratford. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Workers responsible for repairs to social housing across Newham have confirmed plans to go on strike starting next month.

About 50 carpenters, electricians and plumbers at Newham Council are now set to down tools for 24 hours, starting at one minute past midnight, on August 2, 5, 23 and 27 and then on September 11.

The council's repairs and maintenance (RMS) division is responsible for responsive repairs to all council homes in the borough, as well as highways and gas servicing works.

The strike dates were announced by Unite the Union on Wednesday morning following protracted talks with what it called a "blinkered and intransigent" management.

But the local authority has insisted that talks with Unite's local representatives are still "ongoing and positive" and it has already made progress tackling the root causes of the dispute.

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An overhaul of the payroll system is currently in the works for RMS that Unite has claimed would represent an effective pay cut for some workers.

Operatives have also reported safety issues and bullying by senior management in a division only recently rocked by a colossal overspend and internal fraud investigation in 2017/18, and where just last week three managers were found to have been unfairly and wrongfully dismissed at an employment tribunal.

Unite regional officer Onay Kassab said: "It is starkly apparent that Newham council is beleaguered by a very poor employment relations culture.

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"The results are now coming home to roost after our members voted overwhelmingly to strike for five days later this summer. They are disgusted by the way they have been treated by this local authority.

"Unite has endeavoured over a long period to reach a fair settlement to this dispute, but, so far, we have been met with a blinkered and intransigent management.

"However, there is some time before the first strike on 2 August and Unite's door remains open for a constructive dialogue with the council."

For its part, Newham Council has stated that Unite's figures regarding a potential loss of income for workers was based on a "misunderstanding" that had since been "cleared up".

In a statement issued eaerlier this week, a spokewsoman for the local authority said the new pay structure has been worked on in collaboration with local shop stewards.

She added: "We value our staff, and the unions who represent them, and will continue to work and consult with them on these proposed changes."

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