By Claire West
Unite members at housing association, One Housing Group (OHG) will strike for five days from 08.00 today (Thursday 5 September) until 20.00 on Monday (9 September) in the continuing, bitter dispute over management's decision to impose sweeping wage cuts to 200 frontline supported housing staff from February 2014.
This latest industrial action follows strike action in June and July.
Unite has been highly critical of OHG’s chief executive Mick Sweeney for accepting a £31,000 hike in pay and bonuses, while asking 200 staff to accept cuts of up to £8,000-a-year, averaging £2,000 for the majority.
Unite regional officer Nicky Marcus said: “OHG management accepts that the organisation, which is ‘not for profit’, is expanding fast and is in great financial shape.
“Its surplus has tripled in each of the past three years, rising from £4 million in 2011 to £13 million in 2012, to a whopping £35.8 million in 2013.
“During that time OHG has made no consolidated pay rises to staff whatsoever, although senior management have taken up to 10 per cent a year in performance related pay, and last year Mick Sweeney took a £31,000 hike in pay and bonuses. His award this year is yet to be announced.
“With record surpluses and with £140 million in reserves, when OHG should be leading the way in the sector in terms of quality and treating its staff with decency and respect, management is making massive pay cuts and leading, instead, the race to the bottom.
“Management has further antagonised the situation by deciding to pay a £750 bonus to all staff excluding, for the first time, 600 care and support staff who will receive nothing at all, 200 of whom are additionally facing pay cuts of up to £8,000 a year.
“Reflecting the general outrage at the disparity in treatment, one member of staff unaffected by the cuts and in receipt of her bonus donated the bonus to the strike hardship fund in a gesture of pure generosity and solidarity.
"Regrettably, in opposition to the professional mindset of our members at OHG who just want to get on with looking after their vulnerable clients, and not for the want of trying to negotiate and seek mediation, OHG's entrenched, intractable and disrespectful attitude towards their own workers makes further, long term strike action appear inevitable.
"We urge management to be reasonable, get back round the negotiating table and do the decent thing by the highly experienced, frontline staff."