Union rejected jobs and cash offer, claims SBHA

Scottish Borders Housing Association in Selkirk.
Scottish Borders Housing Association in Selkirk.

The Unite union has rejected a proposal that would have seen 18 full-time jobs created for temporary staff in the maintenance division, according to Scottish Borders Housing Association.

Discussions between the two broke down on Monday, despite proposals and counter proposals being put forward to resolve the ongoing dispute.

Due to an error on the ballot paper, the vote by around 90 Unite members on industrial action is now due to close on August 10.

In addition to creating the full-time, permanent posts, Alan Vass, SBHA’s director of technical services, said he offered a “substantial lump sum” to be split amongst staff should they also agree to going on to a monthly salary.

He added that the proposal also included a ‘save to pay’ scheme which would enable tradesmen and women to earn more money.

But the talks failed, with days and hours worked over a three-week cycle seemingly the main stumbling block.

Tony Trench, regional organiser for Unite, said that a union proposal where staff would start work at home from 7.30am was rejected.

He added: “That proposal would have negative cost to SBHA and would improve the service for tenants.”

But Mr Vass, who wants the staff’s working day to start at 8am on site, said: “The union wanted us to increase the standby rate for emergency callouts and a report on repairs performance.

“Their counter proposal was unaffordable in reality, but I welcomed the joint working approach towards improving the performance on repairs.”

Mr Trench said a bullying and harassment claim in the ballot stemmed from an independent staff survey in April 2013, and claimed SBHA refused to issue an apology.

However, Mr Vass told us: “Although we cannot comment on individual cases, any member of staff who wishes to raise concerns has full and complete confidential access to our HR department.

“We always ensure that matters are managed following our policies and procedures to achieve a satisfactory resolution.”

Following the breakdown of the talks, Mr Trench told us: “SBHA are hell bent on pushing us out the gate, which is the last thing our members want and we have bent over backwards to resolve it.”