Clarion Housing Group, one of the UK’s largest social landlords, has been pushing ahead with routine repairs at its properties, despite some residents being Covid-19 positive, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, claimed today (Tuesday 19 January).
Unite said that a petition of more than 200 maintenance staff has been presented to management calling for ‘essential repairs only’ as the pandemic continues to be widespread.
Unite is also angry that the housing association, which boasts it is ‘proud’ not to have taken up the government’s furlough scheme, has told workers, who may be vulnerable or have childcare responsibilities that they have to use annual or unpaid leave or reduce their hours.
Tomorrow (Wednesday 20 January) Unite is due to meet the management, with the union warning that the association faces ‘grave reputational damage’, if it does not reverse its current hardline policies on repairs and furlough.
Unite regional officer Matt Freeman said: “Clarion claims that routine repairs should not be done where any resident is isolating or Covid-19 confirmed, yet we have heard of multiple instances of this happening.
“Workers are also complaining that residents are having difficulty getting through to Clarion to inform them of their Covid-19 infection, and that they are also not being informed if a colleague or resident tests positive shortly after they have been in contact with them.
“The safest option is to follow the lead of six of the 12 largest housing associations in London and remove a significant amount of risk by stopping routine repairs.
“We know of two workers who said they were threatened with disciplinary action if they refused jobs which they are allowed to do, if, for example, the property is untidy or if the resident does not observe social distancing.
“Members have told us that teams are increasingly being decimated by sickness absence and self-isolation. There is now genuine concern that the virus is being transmitted between Clarion employees.
“On furlough, I have spoken to a worker with a severe health condition who thinks he will have to resign once his sick pay runs out as Clarion will not furlough him and he cannot return to an unsafe workplace.
“The options Clarion is offering are annual leave, change your hours or unpaid leave. This is leaving our members with the impossible choice of between their incomes or, in some cases, the education of their children.
“We believe that the Clarion bosses should demonstrate some humanity at this time of national emergency and relax their hardline stance on furlough and routine repairs. If they continue down this avenue, the organisation will face grave reputational damage.”
Unite national officer for the not for profit sector Siobhan Endean said: “Clarion Housing staff are deeply worried about contracting or spreading Covid-19 to tenants.
“Clarion Housing needs to listen to staff and act immediately to stop disciplinary action against staff and stop the instances of non-essential repairs taking place in occupied homes.
“We are calling on Clarion Housing to support their workers who are managing home schooling, shielding or supporting clinically vulnerable relatives by providing paid time off work, or accessing furlough.
“Clarion urgently needs to carry out an equality impact assessment of its policies to support workers through the Covid-19 crisis.”