Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Unions resolve dispute with Circle

See story by reporter Heather Spurr from "Inside Housing" on agreement by trade unions with Circle 
Housing Group.

"One of the largest industrial disputes in the housing association sector has been averted after a landlord compromised on plans to change its employees’ terms and conditions.

Inside Housing can reveal that Unison, Unite and the GMB unions have accepted a renewed offer from Circle Housing, which had been proposing to change staff terms and conditions in a bid to save cash under a proposed restructure.

The agreement, which was accepted by union members in ballots last month, means there is now no immediate prospect of strikes at the 50,000-home landlord.

John Gray, housing association branch secretary at Unison, said: “At one stage I thought there would be strike action but I think we’ve got a reasoned compromise.”

The unions were opposing Circle Housing’s changes to 12 different sets of terms and conditions, including salaries, pensions and working hours.

Circle Housing originally proposed to set salaries through a market review every two years. However, it has revised this to allow collective bargaining every year.

Pension-matched employer contributions have also now been increased from 8%, as originally proposed, to 12% for those who have served for five years or more.

The housing association has also abandoned plans to abolish ‘income protection’ – a benefit for those who are sick for more than six  months

Robert Melciou, GMB convenor for Circle, said: “Given the fact Circle had to make savings, this was the best compromise.”

Circle had been attempting to slash costs following the reduction to income due to George Osborne’s 1% annual rent cut.

The organisation is also planning to merge with Affinity Sutton to create a 127,000-home landlord.

Mark Rogers, chief executive of Circle Housing, said: “We are pleased to have come to an agreement with our recognised trade unions on a new set of terms and conditions… as a responsible employer we changed some of the areas that mattered most to our staff having listened to their feedback.”

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