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Media reelase
GMB Union, Southern Region
4 August 2014

A dispute looms with Mears on contract to maintain 12,500 homes in Brighton over threats to terms and conditions and union rights.

Mears bullying their way to changes is not only unacceptable and has left us potentially with one choice in reacting strongly if they don’t remove the threats says GMB.

GMB members employed by Mears, the housing contractor for Brighton and Hove City Council, are moving closer to a dispute with the company over threats to impose unilateral changes to terms and conditions of employment and to withdraw from agreement for the union to represent members.

These workers were transferred under TUPE legislation, from the City Council to Mears on the outsourced contact for home improvements and maintenance for 12,500 homes. The TUPE legislation protects their terms and conditions of employment and the agreement for the union to represent members.

Members have refused to accept a new detrimental version of an agreement. Instead they pledged to resist proposed changes. GMB has been critical of management’s continuing failure to adhere to the terms and spirit of the current agreement during recent pay negotiations and redundancy program.

Mark Turner, GMB Branch Secretary, said “GMB members didn’t ask for or want this potential dispute but neither will we shy from doing what’s right to protect the terms and conditions of our members.

The current agreement was put in place when staff TUPE’d to Mears from the council. This was done to ensure that all transferring employees didn’t find themselves disadvantaged moving to a profit driven organisation.

Mears have consistently failed to abide both by the content and spirit of the agreement from the start and have through this and other actions clearly indicated that they don’t have the inclination or will to work with unions on any occasion.

I shall be calling for an immediate meeting with the Chief Executive and leader of the council Jason Kitcat to discuss the serious ramifications of Mears action and the possible impact upon the services they deliver on behalf of the council.

I would also look to see all local sitting and prospective parliamentary and council candidates and their respective parties to show support and solidarity for all the unions, including the GMB, exercising their right to protect staff from inferior changes. We would like them to contact Mears to not only publically condemn their action but to insist that they immediately rescind the threats to refuse to negotiate with the union.”

Gary Palmer, GMB Organiser, said “Local managers failure to not only comply with the current agreement, but to instead look to bully their way to changes as an alternative to working with us instead, is not only unacceptable but has, as joint unions, left us potentially with one choice in reacting strongly if they don’t remove the threats.

We will of course sit and discuss the matter with Mears. However unfortunately because we no longer trust local management we would expect commitment in writing from them that they will adhere to existing agreements before we do so.

Going forward I feel it really is time that the council look to not only cancel the housing repair contract with Mears but to look to take the provision back in house, only then perhaps staff would be respected and treated fairly with their terms and conditions protected.”

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