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Freebridge Housing Association staff to strike over Christmas as Unite union says bosses should feel ‘ashamed’

Around 60 community workers are set to go on strike over pay this Christmas – with union bosses saying the largest housing association in West Norfolk should feel “ashamed”.

Freebridge Community Housing staff members are taking yet more industrial action, the Unite union announced yesterday.

The union, which has supported the Lynn-based organisation’s cleaning and maintenance staff through several strikes already this year, said those employed by Freebridge are struggling to heat their homes as they are only paid a few pence more than the minimum wage.

Freebridge workers during industrial action earlier this year – they will strike again next week
Freebridge workers during industrial action earlier this year – they will strike again next week

Members have cited the fact that Freebridge had a turnover of more than £32million last year, while also increasing rent prices.

The company has offered its workers a 5% pay rise and a lump sum payment of £500. This was previously accepted by staff members who are members of its Colleague Forum and the Unison trade union

However, members of the Unite union continue to ask for a 7% pay rise.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Freebridge should be ashamed. It is in robust financial health – while its hardworking staff are struggling to make ends meet.

"Unite is fully committed to protecting and enhancing its members jobs, pay and conditions and the workers at Freebridge have the union’s complete support.”

The strikes will take place from 8pm next Wednesday (December 27) until 4pm on Friday, January 5 – impacting core hours and stand-by services.

The industrial action is expected to severely impact Freebridge’s maintenance service, which provides vital cover, especially during the colder months.

Unite regional officer, Steve Harley, added: “The blame for the upcoming disruption for tenants lies entirely with Freebridge.

“It’s clear it can afford to pay our members a fair increase but is choosing not to. We demand a reasonable pay rise.”

Freebridge has previously said that all of its salaries are “benchmarked”, regardless of a worker’s role and in line with the “median range of comparable roles within our industry”.

Now, a Freebridge spokesperson has added: “We want to reassure our customers that colleagues are working to cover core hours, out of hours and emergencies so if they need us, they should get in touch via telephone or email as usual.”

The housing association has also been forced to deny handing out 36% pay rises to its executives this year, after Unite made those allegations earlier this year.

It said it “could not and would not” be able to afford such pay rises.

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