Sanctuary Housing workers: ‘We are worth it – let’s win it!’

by Nick Auvache, Unite Housing Workers Branch

The strike of maintenance workers at Sanctuary Housing is a very important dispute. Its effects reach out across the whole sector.

Sanctuary is a huge ‘social’ landlord and employer. It employs 14,000 workers throughout the UK. It manages over 120,000 dwellings and has an asset base of £5.6 billion.

Sanctuary workers support BMA.
Sanctuary strikers support the junior doctors.
Photo: Nick Auvache

Unite Housing Workers started to build in Sanctuary a couple of years ago. We submitted our first pay claim in April 2023.

By February 2024 our members’ patience in London had worn thin and, having secured 100% support for strike action in their ballot, workers embarked on the first strike in Sanctuary’s history.

Our claim was for an inflation-based pay rise, a four-day week, parity of conditions with the office workers on sick pay, holiday entitlement and pensions, and recognition for our union Unite. We don’t want special treatment, we want equal treatment.

The employer has told us that it would cost as little as £2 million to bring maintenance workers up to the same level as their office-based colleagues. For an organisation the size of Sanctuary, that is a drop in the ocean.

In case you had any lingering doubts about the affordability of our claim, Sanctuary’s profits last year stood at £101 million, up 73% on the previous year. Their revenue stands at £943 million, up 16% on the previous year.

How can we respect an employer that refuses to recognise a trade union? How can we respect an employer that refuses to pay an inflation-based pay increase? How can we respect an employer that refuses to implement parity of conditions among its workers, while talking about how it believes in equality?!

According to the employer’s own figures, it would cost as little as £4.57 per employee per day to grant parity of conditions.

Unite fully supports the Sanctuary maintenance workers’ dispute. We say: “You are worth it, you have earned it, let’s fight for it, we can win it!”

Sanctuary London’s maintenance workers have spearheaded this dispute. They have just completed 24 days of strike action. Now they are no longer on their own and we are pleased to announce that the North West and South West regions will be embarking on a consultative ballot for action.