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Albyn Housing employees consider strike action in pay and conditions row

By Alasdair Fraser

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GMB Scotland organiser John McCartney who said: “As can be seen from the staff survey the one per cent pay rise is not acceptable."
GMB Scotland organiser John McCartney who said: “As can be seen from the staff survey the one per cent pay rise is not acceptable."

Some staff at a leading housing association are threatening to take industrial action if a pay and conditions offer is not improved.

Any strike action by Albyn Housing Society employees could impact residents in the strath.

It is the biggest social housing landlord in the area along with the local authority, and has more than 3300 homes across the Highlands.

The move by the GMB was prompted after staff became incensed over a new pay rise offer of just one per cent.

However, many more were also angered that there was no recognition of the extra costs associated with working from home.

GMB members of staff were surveyed and 89 per cent felt that one per cent was not enough while 100 per cent said they should be offered compensation for working from home.

Now 79 per cent have said that they “are now prepared to take industrial action because of the serious dissatisfaction they feel”.

GMB Scotland organiser John McCartney said: “As can be seen from the staff survey the one per cent pay rise is not acceptable, the numbers speak for themselves.

“An even greater area of sensitivity is the lack of recognition for the increased costs of working from home.

"Staff were unanimous in saying there should be some compensation for heating their homes, using electricity and the rest – all of which have become a burden for householders who work for Albyn.

“The GMB, as a union, is always glad to get back round the negotiating table to get this sorted but if Albyn are unwilling to negotiate seriously and in good faith to find a solution then industrial action is a very real option.

“This is a resolvable situation and that is what we hope can be done but first Albyn needs to take this seriously.”

But the call to re-enter negotiations to hammer out a solution comes as Albyn’s chief executive Lisa Buchanan and its chairwoman Maxine Smith have resigned.

Kirsty Morrison, the current director of customer services, has been appointed interim chief executive.

Mr McCartney said the changes added to concerns.

“This is yet another disruption to the daily working objectives of staff and adds to the high turnover of staff in the past 18 month,” he said. “This high turnover of staff is alarming for such a reputable organisation and will no doubt worry GMB members.”

Ms Smith, who is also a Highland councillor, said: “I’ve been happy to serve on the Albyn board for 17 years. I stepped up to take the chair two years ago but it takes up a huge amount of time.

“I’m trying to free up time to develop my own businesses so I took the decision that I’d given more than enough of my time to the social housing sector.

“It gives me time to concentrate on my own work plus my council constituent work, which I still love.

“I also need some personal time as I’m not getting any younger.”

A spokeswoman for Albyn Housing, which has bases in Inverness and Invergordon, said: “While we don’t comment on individual resignations, I would like to highlight that Kirsty Morrison has been appointed as interim chief executive.

“Recruitment for both the chief executive and chair roles is already under way.

“I’m afraid we don’t provide media comment on any negotiations. We communicate on such matters with employees and with the trade union as some employees are members.”

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