The last time Chesterfield’s housing maintenance crew had a pay rise Lehman Brothers was still in business, Gordon Brown was UK prime minister and there were no iPads or Instagram.
The workers, who are members of the Unite trades union, are taking strike action on Tuesday 29th August and Wednesday 30th August.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “It is outrageous that our members have been denied a pay increase for 15 years and it is astonishing that when Chesterfield council was presented with the facts it refused to do anything about it.
“Unite does what it says on the trade union tin and always puts the jobs, pay and conditions of its members first. The workers at Chesterfield council will receive the union’s complete support.”
The problem came to light during the Covid pandemic when the workers, who are responsible for maintaining and repairing Chesterfield’s council housing stock, were transferred from being paid via a combination of a basic wage and on piece work to a salary scheme. During this time, they received several standard local government pay increases, in line with other council workers.
On investigation, however, the workers discovered that their contracts stated that they should receive both a salary (including annual pay increases) and then additional payments based on the work undertaken (piece work). However, Chesterfield council wants to return to the previous system where any increase in the basic pay (such as an annual pay increase) is offset by a reduction in the money they receive for their piece work, resulting in the workers receiving no actual pay increase.
The piece work rates have not been increased since 2008. The workers estimate that the piece work rates are 70% below market value and they are having to work three times as hard to earn a decent living.
Unite regional officer Paula Stephens said: “The strike action will inevitably result in delays to repairs and maintenance to tenants’ homes and emergency call outs won’t be answered. But this dispute is entirely of Chesterfield council’s own making. It has had every opportunity to resolve this dispute through negotiation, but it has failed to do so.”
The Chesterfield strike is part of a wider local authority dispute over pay. Unite has industrial action mandates at 23 councils across England and Wales. The union has rejected this year’s local government pay offer of £1,925 as it amounts to a real terms pay cut, it says.