Housing maintenance workers in Manchester are stepping up their fight for pay parity.
Unite union members employed by Mears housing contracting company are in their second wave of strikes this year.
The 160 workers maintain houses owned by Northwards—the arms length management company run by Manchester City Council. They are now picketing all day, with up to 30 workers on the picket line at a time.
Their contact was outsourced to Mears a decade ago. Strikers want to bring “an end to Mears” by being brought back in-house.
They want the same pay rates as those employed directly by Northwards—which can be up to £7,000 a year more.
Unite rep Billy spoke to Socialist Worker on the picket line. “Mears are a shit company—the worst I’ve worked for in my life,” he said.
“Mears is making millions, but it’s going to shareholders not to tenants.
“There are health and safety concerns too. We can’t get the safety equipment we need—and the health and safety officer is employed by Mears.”
Bosses’ penny pinching has a big impact on people’s homes. “Each house was fitted with a new kitchen or bathroom a decade ago—but they need repairing now,” Billy said. “We’re not allowed to fit new kitchens or bathrooms.”
Keith added, “Manchester City Council is a business now, they’ve been sucked in by money. But they have more than enough money, they should bring us in-house.”
Mears workers struck for over 40 days earlier this year. They are now striking every weekday except for Wednesday—and are in talks to escalate the action to include Wednesdays.
Workers there are confident they can win. Billy said, “We’ve got meetings to talk about how to win this and we’re involved every councillor in north Manchester, and I’ve got a meeting with Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.
“We’ve been fighting this for ten years. The bosses can give themselves huge bonuses but we’re going to win.”