On the Picket Line

Workers celebrate victory in nine-month-long fight at Mears

By Dag Tirsén
March 19, 2018

MANCHESTER, England — After a nine-months battle, and more than 80 days of strike protests, the 180 housing maintenance workers employed by the contractor Mears won a 20 percent pay raise. Their main demand was to end the wage differential of several thousand pounds between the Mears workers and other housing maintenance workers here.

The deal means they will reach parity by 2020. Attacks on pensions, working conditions and annual leave were withdrawn.

“The workforce has become more militant and united. We’re stronger to stand up to the managers now,” UNITE union shop steward Bill Sinclair told workers and supporters at a victory celebration at a Manchester pub.

The Labour Party-dominated Manchester City Council contracts out maintenance work on 37,000 homes. In 2017 they shifted the contract on over 13,000 of the units on the north side of the city to Mears. This meant the 180 workers had a new boss, and their wages and working conditions worsened.

Sue Abbott, chair of the board that manages all the flats, bragged about the deal, saying, “Mears offers good value for money, with the preset price of each repair job decreasing 3.01 percent.”

“That was meant to come out of our pockets,” said shop steward Bill Nugent.

UNITE provided strike pay to the workers, which strengthened their ability to stick with the fight.

“We won because we stuck together,” Nugent told the Militant. “We didn’t give up. We organized protests against the Manchester City Council, we reached out to the tenants with information about our strike, and we reached out to other Mears employees all over the country.”