Manchester housing maintenance workers strike

Unite activist Ian Allinson interviewed shop steward Colin Pitt about the ongoing strike for pay parity and against housing maintenance on the cheap.

Manchester City Council has got rid of its council housing, which is now run by housing associations such as Northwards Housing, outside whose offices strikers were protesting on Friday. Maintenance, formerly carried out by the council’s Direct Works department, has also been outsourced. The 180 strikers are employed by Manchester Working Limited / Mears. The Council retains a significant stake in Manchester Working, and strikers believe the council has the power to ensure the dispute is settled.

Colin Pitt, one of the shop stewards, explained the situation:

Employers have responded aggressively to the action, threatening to stop holiday accrual (which would not be legal) and to clamp strikers’ cars. Strikers are angry that their pay lags far behind that of people doing similar work for other employers. The strike has a wider significance because other bosses are now using these workers as a “benchmark” to justify not giving pay rises for their own staff.

The strikers are mainly former members of the UCATT construction union, which recently merged into Unite and sits within Unite’s construction sector.

The workers want to escalate the strikes, which have been going on for five weeks and are currently Mondays, Thursday and Fridays, to every day. To do this, they need support.

A letter appealing for support has been issued by Unite’s north-west region. You can support the strikers by:

  1. Visiting pickets, typically 7:30-10am on strike days, at Hendham Vale, by the junction of Hazelbottom Road and Vale Park Way (map)
  2. Donate to the strike fund by cheque payable to “UCATT UD.393 Manchester 1st Branch”, sent to Andy Fisher, Unite, 2 Churchill Way, Liverpool, L3 8EF, or online to account 46034412 sort code 60-83-01.
  3. Send a message of support to Colin Pitt via
  4. Join a protest on Thursday 29 June from 9am at Manchester Central Convention Complex (GMEX), where Mears will be meeting from 11am with other employers in their industry


  1. Even Pinochet reversed his private good public bad mania,when he then implemented a public works programme that Allende would have balked at

  2. There’s an excellent Guardian article at about how the Grenfell refurbishment was done by a complex chain of contractors and sub-contractors. It raises questions about whether anyone really takes responsibility for the whole of the work when projects are structured like this. As the editor of Building Design says, there was a time when councils had their own architects. When I worked for Manchester Housing Department in the 1980s the Council had both City Architects and Direct Works departments. You can see how privatisation and outsourcing lead to poor quality work, sometimes with tragic results.


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