Socialist Worker

Housing workers feel strong striking for fair pay

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2608

Resolve on the Tower Hamlets housing workers’ picket lines

Resolve on the Tower Hamlets housing workers’ picket lines (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Workers at Tower Hamlets Community Housing (THCH) began the second week of their two- week strike on Monday.

The Unison union members in the east London borough are fighting attacks on their pay. Strikers have held big picket lines outside THCH offices and have leafletted estates, building support among residents.

Until April workers were paid according to the NJC local government pay scales—but now bosses have started paying them “market rates”.

This will mean a private consultancy firm decides workers’ pay—with no transparency about the process or guarantees about pay progression.

Salma, a THCH leasehold officer, said she is striking because the changes “are not what I signed up for”.

“I moved to the public sector,” she said. “But now this is becoming more like the private sector.”


Tower Hamlets council set up THCH in 2000 to manage the transfer of its housing stock.

Unison branch secretary John McLoughlin told a picket line rally, “The housing association is acting more like a private company.”

Mark Truman has worked at THCH for 12 years. He told Socialist Worker, “In all my time here we’ve never had a strike talked about whatsoever.

“It’s not just us seeing changes, it’s the residents too. Repairs aren’t happening, and tenants can’t communicate with the office.” The dispute involves all THCH workers, including estate cleaners, office and admin workers and housing officers.

Bosses have tried to divide workers by offering estate cleaners a pay rise.

But strikers are resolved to stay united. Mark said, “We’ve had 20 people out on strike, and we haven’t lost anyone in the course of it.”

Many are first-time strikers. Salma said, “It’s a fantastic way to remind people you can stand for what you believe in.”

Bin workers are refusing to empty bins on the estates, and a public meeting has been planned. There is reported “chaos” inside THCH offices, and pressure is mounting on the bosses.

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