Sanctuary workers continue to strike against real pay cuts

by Nick Auvache, Camden and Haringey Socialist Party

Benefits are up, pensions are up, rents are up, but housing association Sanctuary still refuses to raise wages by anything approaching those basic levels. In April, state benefit levels rose by 6.7% and pensions by 8.5%. This means that even this miserly Tory government offered increases that massively outstrip what Sanctuary management believe their workers deserve.

Sanctuary strike.
Sanctuary strike. Photo: London SP

This year, most of Sanctuary’s maintenance workers have seen a 4% pay increase imposed on them. This comes on top of a 4% rise in last year’s pay. Sanctuary maintenance workers have suffered a 9.5% decline in their real wages since 2021.

Why are Sanctuary’s management so mean? Are they in financial trouble? Do they not have the money to pay? Are maintenance workers less productive than last year? ‘No’ is the answer to all these questions.

Sanctuary recently announced a whopping increase of 79% to pre-tax profits to £101.3m, but the benefits of this bonanza have not been felt by staff. In its latest financial statement, the employer boasts that “Sanctuary is pleased to report a strong performance for the financial year 2022-23. The last 12 months have seen another period of growth and recovery from the pandemic.” Yet neither last year nor this year have workers seen the benefit of this, with two below-inflation pay awards.

There is no good reason why Sanctuary should deprive workers of pay increases which match the rise in the cost of living. Unite the Union believes it is unacceptable for an organisation such as Sanctuary to consistently cut staff’s real wages, especially during a period that they themselves describe as one which has seen “strong growth”. If workers accept wage cuts during these periods, what on earth can we expect if Sanctuary’s fortunes take a turn for the worse? Pay is one reason why these workers have just announced a further four days strike action, on 21, 23, 28, and 30 May, on top of the 17 days they have taken so far. Strikers were pleased to receive support from suspended Labour MPs Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn at their latest strike rally.

Sanctuary housing workers continue strike

Sanctuary Housing maintenance workers in Unite the Union are continuing their strike action over pay and union recognition. The workers involved in the dispute are based in Hackney but recruitment to the union in Sanctuary is increasing nationwide. A strike rally at the company office near the Kingsmead housing estate will be taking place on 26 April.

Sanctuary housing workers vote to escalate action

by Paul Kershaw, Unite Housing Workers Branch chair

Sanctuary housing maintenance workers once again had a good turnout for the picket line on Monday 25 March.

The strike of these London-based workers has got off to a brilliant start. They are fighting for union recognition and a pay rise that compensates for real-terms cuts in pay.

Sanctuary picket meeting March 2024
Sanctuary strike picket line.
Photo: Unite housing branch

Sanctuary Housing Association is a large national employer that refuses to recognise unions and has never before faced strike action. Its revenues for last year stood at £943 million, and its surplus increased by 73% to £101.3 million.

Monday’s picket meeting voted unanimously to escalate action — a further nine days starting on 10 April.

Despite a bullying approach from local managers, confidence is high, with new members signing up to the union and joining the strike every day. Support from tenants has been overwhelming.

Sanctuary has a presence throughout England, Wales and Scotland, and it is very significant that workers are joining Unite around the country, as they face similar issues to the London team.

Contact the branch for speakers, donations and to give support: [email protected]

Sanctuary housing workers: Bosses up the ante

by Unite housing workers branch member

Sanctuary Housing Association London maintenance workers are on strike again, and although there are hopes of a breakthrough due to management agreeing to attend talks at ACAS, workers have been angered by management announcing that they intend to scrap the retention bonus of £500 per year.

This amounts to what many workers describe as 1.5% of their salary, which made previous pay offers more palatable. Having removed this bonus, workers both in London and elsewhere are reacting with fury.

Sanctuary 2024 strike
Sanctuary housing workers picket line.
Photo: Unite Housing Workers branch

This could lead to more workers joining the ballot for strike action. Workers in London are reaching out to other maintenance staff throughout the UK and calling on Unite the Union nationally to organise a petition demanding that Sanctuary reverse its appalling decision.

Sanctuary’s announcement was communicated via video. Management stated that this bonus was no longer necessary as recruitment problems had eased post Covid. This completely ignores the effects of the cost-of-living crisis.

One Sanctuary rep said: “This is an appalling decision and shows how out of touch with staff Sanctuary is. It demonstrates further why we need a union and for Sanctuary to recognise us.”

Another responded to management’s decision by saying: “This feels like management sticking two fingers up to workers who held the fort when things were bad during Covid. They then make it worse by pretending that the decision was done with the consent of the staff council, which it was not.

“It shows the need for workers to have an independent voice. That voice should be Unite and it further vindicates our decision to take strike action.”