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Thirteen Group concede and agreement is reached

JANUARY 21, 2020

In the period leading up to Christmas 2015 Vela and Fabrick Housing groups were in the process of merging to become Thirteen Group and negotiations were taking place regarding group wide terms and conditions plus an annual pay rise. Included in the negotiations from the trade union side were Unite who were the largest union, Unison, UCATT & GMB.

Unfortunately these negotiations did not go well and resulted in Unison & UCATT conducting a work to rule along with Unite. However Unite took the extra step in taking part in a one day strike before Christmas and had a second day planned for early January.The company initially refused to budge in any meaningful way from there negotiating position even when ACAS were brought in, a meeting that neither the then chair nor CEO deemed of sufficient importance to attend. However due to the pressure brought about by this day of action plus the work to rule brought the company and the fact that UCATT were to take part in the second day of action, back pressured the company into conceding a number of points resulting in the Unite members accepting a substantially improved offer. The main concessions are listed below:

  • Recognition of a “normal” working week for trades
  • A overtime rate of time and a half
  • Paid rest period after call out (sleep mode)
  • Improvements to the proposed flexi scheme.
  • Travelling time and expenses for those working outside their contractual areas
  • Increased protection for essential car users
  • Pay award increased from 2% to 2.5%
  • Numerous changes to the Contract of Employment (which overrides the Terms and Conditions Document)

During the run up to this dispute a new director of property services where most Unite members are based was appointed and shortly after a new CEO and Thirteen board chair. Subsequently the pay claim for April 2017 and a multiskilling agreement for the maintenance staff was agreed after negotiations which were undertaken in a more meaningful manner as both management and unions worked together in partnership to give members a fair deal in pay. The main obstacle was the fact that the maintenance staff were effectively on 4 different rates of pay, a hangover from the days prior to the merger. The solution was to effectively merge the pay up over as long as the trades volunteered to take part in the multiskilling agreement. This resulted in a pay rise for most with over 400 staff over and above the annual pay rise and less than 10 members going into pay protection.

The pay rise was substantial with: £1060 paid at £530 a year April 2017 & April 2018 (The equivalent of between 3% and 2% for most staff) but for the 400 plus trades because of the multiskilling agreement this resulted in some trades getting rises in excess of 20% over the 2 years which should be able to be paid for with increased productivity.

Paul Weston Unite convenor at Thirteen said “Unite General Secretary rightly categorises Unite as the Fighting Back union and backs that up by being the only union that pays strike pay from day one, but we can also be a partner in the workplace, coming to agreements with employers for the benefit of both the employer and members.”

We believe that Unite’s housing workers deserve a minimum 4% pay rise for 2017 and campaigning resources can be found here.

Pictured Picket supporters at Hudson Quay AT Hudson Quay Office Middlesbrough and at the Hartlepool Depot

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