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From Thursday this week, UNISON members working as housing support workers at Leeds Federated Housing are taking 5 days of strike action, the first two co-inciding with open days been run by the housing associated for the service users the strikers work with.

Iain Dalton, Hyde Park & Headingley Socialist Party

As we have reported previously, the strike is over attacks on pay and the regrading of workers who are facing huge pay cuts whilst having their workloads doubled. Management, on the other hand, face no pay cuts and have recently increased rents by 5%.

But this struggle doesn’t affect housing support workers at Leeds Fed, housing support workers at other housing groups in Leeds are facing the same attacks as contracts with the council come up for renewal. Touchstone workers took one days strike action on Monday, where the CEO is Labour councillor in Armley, Alison Lowe, the workers have had a pitiful offer of a £500 bonus, nowhere near compensating for the loss in earnings they will face. The other two voluntary sector housing groups where Leeds UNISON organises, Foundation and Community Links, are also in the process of balloting over industrial action.

Moreover, if they are succesfully in attacking Housing Support Workers, they will enforce the same changes on other staff further down the line in a race to the bottom. If, as appears to be the case at present, management still refuse to negotiate, then the action needs to be escalated, the support from other staff on the picket lines shows that there is a high level of support within other Leeds Federated workers for the strikers. But crucially, given the scope of the attacks, Leeds UNISON should co-ordinate action between workers at different housing associations so they come out on the same day.

As Wednesday 20th April is the last day of this current run of strike action, the strikers have asked for other trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners to come down to support their picket line that day, which runs from 7.30am until 5pm outside Arthington House, 30 Westfield Road, Leeds, LS3 1DE, with banners and placards. Messages of support can be sent to andypayne48@hotmail.co.uk