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Workers from West Norfolk’s largest social housing provider Freebridge Community Housing set to strike over pay

Nearly 60 workers from West Norfolk’s largest social housing provider are set to strike over pay.

Employees from Freebridge Community Housing have balloted to take part in industrial action, with strike days announced over the coming weeks.

Those affected are responsible for providing home maintenance repairs and estate services across Freebridge properties.

The Freebridge Community Housing offices in King's Lynn
The Freebridge Community Housing offices in King's Lynn

A spokesperson for Unite the union said that many of the workers, who perform a variety of roles including in cleaning and maintenance, are paid “little more than the national minimum wage and many are struggling to pay their bills”.

But Freebridge’s CEO Anita Jones said the team felt its offer was “fair and reasonable”, with all salaries “externally benchmarked”.

“They are angry that Freebridge has offered them a 5% increase and a £500 non-consolidated payment, despite the association’s robust financial health,” the Unite spokesperson added.

“This is a significant, real-terms pay cut when the real rate of inflation, RPI, stands at 10.7%.”

The union said that Freebridge had a total turnover of £32 million and a surplus of £3.57 million in 2022, with it increasing its rents by 7% this year.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Freebridge is in robust financial health and should be paying these workers properly.

“Unite will not stand for attacks on our members’ jobs, pay or conditions and the workforce at Freebridge will receive their union’s total support.”

The workers will strike on August 21, 29, 30 and 31, and on September 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, with Unite saying strike action will “intensify” if the dispute is not resolved.

Unite regional officer Steve Harley said: “The disruption that will be caused to tenants is entirely the fault of the association. It can absolutely afford to pay our members, who are struggling financially, a reasonable pay rise. That is what needs to happen.”

However, Freebridge’s CEO Anita Jones said the team were “very disappointed” that an agreement was not reached with some colleagues on the pay award this year.

Freebridge Community Housing chief executive Anita Jones
Freebridge Community Housing chief executive Anita Jones

“We strongly feel that the offer, which has resulted in pay awards ranging from 6-7% non-consolidated and targeted to ensure our lower paid roles receive the most support is fair and reasonable and absolutely recognises that our colleagues have been impacted by the cost-of-living increases alongside our customers,” she said.

“This year’s award comes on the back of significant adjustments to our colleagues on lowest paid salaries last year, with some colleagues seeing increases of 9%.

“All salaries at Freebridge are externally benchmarked and are paid the market median, which is appropriate for a business such as ours.

“Freebridge Community Housing is a not-for-profit company, and as such, any surplus goes back into our tenants’ homes and communities.

“We have a moral obligation to ensure that we balance a fair offer to our colleagues, against investment in our tenants’ homes and services.

“We value all of our team and demonstrate that in the generous wider package that we offer.”

Mrs Jones has apologised to any customers who may be impacted by the strikes.

“We do understand that this will be very inconvenient for some customers and whole-heartedly apologise,” she said.

“During this time, we will continue to provide an Emergency and Urgent repairs service, as well as to respond to the needs of our most vulnerable customers. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and co-operation during this period of industrial action.”

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