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Dozens of striking Aberdeen council workers to picket outside Marischal College

Unite members will go on strike tomorrow

Defiant council housing workers will go on strike at the front of Marischal College tomorrow morning amid a bitter dispute over their workload.

Unite Scotland has confirmed around 40 of its members in Aberdeen City Council’s housing services department will take industrial action.

It will be the first of a planned eight days of strike action up until the end of July.

The union said a number of socially distanced pickets will take place at the council headquarters on Friday.

Time to ‘take a stand’

It comes after 79% of those participating in the ballot supported taking strike action, and by 92% in favour of taking industrial action short of a strike.

This follows months of Unite members claiming an excessive workload had left them at “breaking point”.

John Boland, Unite industrial officer, said: “We had hoped that the overwhelming support for strike action shown by the members in the ballot and the support our members have received from the public, who clearly sympathise with the position our members are in, would have resulted in some movement by Aberdeen City Council.

Workers will gather outside Marischal College

“However, we have been informed that the proposed changes to merge job roles will go through despite the opposition from our members.

“Unite’s members are prepared to take a stand for themselves and the people of Aberdeen and we hope the public in turn will show their support.”

Housing crisis

Unite says morale had plummeted among council housing staff due to cuts to the service, and as a result of “greater pressures on the workforce due to a rise in housing arrears and homeless figures”.

Rent arrears have risen from £2.64 million in 2015-16 to £7.9 million in 2020-21 in the local authority, while Scottish Government figures reveal that Aberdeen had 1,486 homeless applications in 2019-20 – up from 1,285 in 2015-16.

A series of 24-hour strikes will take place, with each beginning at 8.30am.

Strike itinerary

  • Friday, June 11
  • Monday, June 14
  • Friday, June 25
  • Monday, June 28
  • Friday, July 9
  • Monday, July 12
  • Friday, July 23
  • Monday, July 26

We previously reported how the industrial action would leave thousands of council tenants in Aberdeen facing days of disruption.

The staff – whose job is primarily to house council tenants based on their needs, with a focus on homelessness prevention – previously warned they had reached “breaking point” because of an increase in their workload.

Council hits back

An Aberdeen City Council spokesman insisted that the “majority” of housing staff support the planned changes and pleaded with Unite to reconsider.

He said : “It is very disappointing that Unite the Union’s members are planning to strike, with only 19 of their members voting to take this action, rather than working constructively with us on plans to improve services for the people of Aberdeen.

“The majority of our housing staff are supportive of proposals that invests in our service by increasing staffing numbers, reduces the average tenancy workload per officer, and ultimately better meets the needs of our customers, including some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“We hope that Unite the Union colleagues will reconsider their position and remain actively engaged in our ongoing consultation with staff.

“Aberdeen City Council is committed to serving our customers and will in any event continue to deliver the full range of housing services.”

Residents to be affected as council housing workers strike over ‘massive’ workload increase

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