The GMB union has issued a strike notice over pay for housing staff who have joined Brighton and Hove City Council from the contractor Mears.
The union said that a pay claim – for an 8 per cent rise – had been made last October to Mears which was then running the housing maintenance contract for the council.
The staff had since been transferred from Mears but the union said that the council had refused “to engage” in meaningful talks.
Instead, it wanted to start a process of “harmonising” pay which would mean a cut in wages for a number of staff.
Strikes have been called for Monday 3 August, Wednesday 5 August and Wednesday 7 August.
The union said: “Let’s hope the onset of strike action is just the jolt the council need to wake them up and start negotiations. It’s their move next.
“The council’s chief executive Geoff Raw and interim executive director for housing, neighbourhoods and communities Rachel Sharpe have been informed that our members will be taking action … should the council continue to avoid, delay and filibuster this long outstanding pay increase.
“The pay claim was originally put in in October 2019 to Mears, who were running the contract on behalf of the council.
“Since the staff are now being brought back in-house, the unsettled claim also transfers to the council.
“The council has accepted this claim as part of the liabilities of transfer. However, since the staff have moved over, the council has come up with excuse after excuse to avoid settling what is a simple 8 per cent pay claim while ensuring that sick pay and holiday entitlements were fairly rationalised across all of the transferring trades and staff.
“The council has as an alternative stated that they wish to carry out a harmonisation programme which will in fact cause transferred staff to suffer a pay cut.
“This is not linked to the original and current pay deal and in fact was not notified to transferring staff within the ‘measures letter’ provided during the TUPE (transfer) in April 2020, as is required by law.
“The strike dates are the first in a series of action notices presented to the council by angry and disappointed repairs team staff whose only wish is for the council to sit and honour the planned negotiations on pay that were in place when they took the team back in-house.”
GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said: “Mears Ltd were always predictably slow and slippery in avoiding matters when it came to pay but even they had the decency to eventually sit down to resolve matters.
“Geoff Raw and his team have failed to even live up to that extremely low bar.
“Mears thought unilaterally imposing a 2 per cent pay increase across the board with no other changes was good enough but our members rejected the deal for the insulting rubbish it was.
“The council and its housing team were kept up to date with the dispute throughout, meaning that it would be the council that would ultimately need to settle the pay deal once past the point of transfer.
“On that basis, GMB suspended its previous notice of strike action over the transfer dates in good faith on the understanding that the council would be keen to negotiate to see the matter resolved once the service had settled in.”
GMB branch secretary Mark Turner said: “We are very disappointed that the GMB’s act of good faith in suspending the industrial action has been repaid not only with a refusal to enter into talks on a pay deal but with the proposed imposition of a harmonisation process to force staff to take what would for some be a significant pay cut.
“We are sorry for what will potentially be quite a disruptive period for the city residents’ housing repair service but to be clear GMB are not prepared to accept any cuts at all.
“The fact that this pay deal is in real danger of spilling over into the dates planned for this year’s 2020 pay submission in October shows that you only get so far being as tolerant as we have been to date.
“Let’s hope the onset of strike action is just the jolt the council need to wake them up and start negotiations. It’s their move next.”