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Saturday, 23 August 2014

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Lay-offs likely as Home hives off housing repairs

MAJOR job losses are on the cards among repair and maintenance staff throughout the borough.

Social landlord Home Group outsourced its repair and maintenance contract on Monday to Hertfordshire-based Willmott Dixon Partnerships, which immediately launched a programme of redundancies.

A union says the firm aims to make 62 of the 260 Cumbrian employees it inherited under the TUPE process redundant and a formal 30-day consultancy period is now under way. Those at risk include about 70 staff at the firm’s depot at Whitehaven Commercial Park at Moresby, and around the same number its depot at Ennerdale Road, Maryport. The remainder are from a number of local contracting firms, including Thomas Armstrong, Margrange and Mason Brothers, whose contracts were also transferred to Willmott Dixon on Monday.

Kevin Young, the regional organiser for GMB, which represents the at-risk staff, said the union will work hard to minimise the job losses.

“Willmott Dixon says it will invite voluntary redundancies, but they won’t get as many as 62 so we anticipate some compulsory redundancies,” said Mr Young. “We are extremely disappointed at this news but we will work with people throughout the consultation to provide a service and minimise the job losses the best we can.”

As part of the contract, Willmott Dixon will receive £14 million a year for its seven-year contract to deliver a range of maintenance services to 9,700 homes primarily across Cumbria and the Lake District. A spokesman said: “Our service for Home will be delivered by engineers that transferred from Home’s current in-house team under TUPE on April 2.

“As part of this process, we anticipate there will be a limited number of redundancies as it structures the team in an efficient manner to deliver the services.

“As a responsible employer, the company appreciates this will be an uncertain time for many of the engineers who have transferred across.

“A consultation process has begun which includes close liaison with union and employee representatives to manage this process in a fair and transparent way. Also on hand will be a dedicated support team to provide ongoing assistance for those affected by the planned changes.”

Mr Young was also critical of Copeland Council – which previously managed social housing in the borough – and Home Group in light of the announcement. He said: “We are disappointed in Home Group for getting rid of the contract to an external provider who doesn’t have the capacity to take on all its staff.

“We are also disappointed that in 2004, Copeland Council transferred its stock to Home Group as a private sector company. This is the net result.”

Copeland councillor George Clements, portfolio holder for housing and planning, said: “Our housing stock was transferred to Home Group in 2004, following a ballot which revealed 78 per cent of tenants supported the move.

“The transfer brought a number of benefits including a significant additional investment into property renovations and improvements, which as a local authority governed by strict financial guidelines, we would not have been able to make. This investment is clear to see in the housing stock.

“We are disappointed to learn that a number of staff are at risk of redundancy and we will be discussing our concerns directly with Home Group to understand the impact on local people, and looking to see whether anything further can be done to reduce the number of redundancies.”

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