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15.06.17

Manchester council slammed by Unite for ‘abdicating’ worker pay responsibility

Unite has today slammed Manchester City Council after it “abdicated” responsibility for the treatment of construction workers by a sub-contractor under the authority’s remit.

The council had recently sublet a contract for the construction and repair of social housing and public buildings to private sub-contractor Mears. But one leading member of the union exclusively told PSE that Mears was paying workers, who had previously been employed by the council, up to £6,000 less than others doing the exact same job.

He added that employees were being paid so little that they could barely scrape together a pension to retire on, and that the council was now trying to wash their hands of any responsibility for the workers’ treatment, despite them subletting the contract in the first place.

“The city council are partly responsible for creating the dispute in the first place,” Andy Fisher, regional coordinating officer for Unite, told PSE.

“Although we have made attempts on many occasions talking to senior councillors inside of the city council, they have done very little to assist the people who used to be their workers because they were transferred from the employment of the council out to this contractor.”

Fisher said he believed the council had “abdicated responsibility” for all of the workers, and “condemned them to low wages and a poor pension when they finally retire”.

“There is no other organisation within what used to be the city council’s housing stock who are paid anywhere near as poorly as these people are,” he added. “We’re not asking for that full £6,000 pay rise, but we’re asking for something between that which gives our workers a decent rate of pay, terms and conditions and secures their pension.”

Fisher also continued to say that as much as the council was part of the problem, it was also part of the solution, as he called on councillors and senior figures to sit down with the union to settle the dispute.

Unite strike manchester flag

“We simply want to sit down with the employer and the city council to find a solution that is affordable, but also pays decent rates of pay that is recognisable, within the sector that they work in,” he said. “If a solution could be found tomorrow we would get back to work tomorrow. There’s a suggestion that the union won’t come to the table, when nothing could be further from the truth.

“We are in regular contact with the city council, as well as MPs and councillors who we have a connection with, and right after the general election we would hope they now focus their minds on this.”

The union representative concluded by sending this message to councillors: “Help to get the employer round the table to find a fair deal and a fair resolution for these workers who have been paid poorly for the last 10 years so we can move forward in a positive manner.”

A Manchester City Council spokesperson told PSE: “This is an issue between Mears and their employees and it wouldn't be appropriate for us to comment, particularly as negotiations between the parties are currently ongoing.”

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