Union anger over threat to strikers

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STAFF at Wigan’s council housing organisation were threatened by bosses not to take part in this week’s huge local authority dispute.

Workers at Wigan and Leigh Housing were told that, because it is classed an Arm’s Length Management Organisation (ALMO), they may face disciplinary action if they were to take part.

They received the warning via the service organisation’s Human Resource department.

It also went on to warn that any picket line mounted must be “peaceful”.

And it added that union members not joining the action should not be “obstructed or made to feel intimidated”.

But unions said that they would have backed workers choosing to have joined the dispute.

And they condemned Wigan and Leigh Housing for allegedly bullying the workforce.

John Gray, who represents housing workers for the largest local authority union, Unison, said that the laws covering whether ALMOs should be included in the strike action were complicated by a European Union court ruling.

But the union had made itself available ahead of the action to advise those members working for the Wigan ALMO over the “threat.”

The warning from the ALMO stated: “In line with other ALMOs, Wigan and Leigh Housing employees have not been included in the local government workers vote for strike action.

“Therefore, members of Unison, GMB and Unite must not take part in the strike action and are expected to attend work as normal.

“Participation in the strike will be unlawful and disciplinary action may be taken if an employee unlwafully participates.”

Unison organiser Mr Gray said that he would strongly condemn organisations that tried to bully or intimidate staff.

He said that if employers has a genuine belief that its staff should not be involved in the dispute it should have contacted Unison, not threaten their workers.

Ken Lee, director of business development at Wigan and Leigh Housing, said that the ALMO had contacted the trade unions to ask if their staff were being balloted for strike action and the unions confirmed they were not balloting its employees.

He said: ”As such, we expected staff to work as normal.

“We have a great relationship with unions locally and had this industrial action applied to our staff we would have respected the right of union members to take part if they had wanted to.”