The Unite union has confirmed that the four-week strike action being taken by its members in the Northern Ireland Housing Executive will continue for a further four weeks.
Workers, including those in the Portadown area, are seeking a pay improvement above the 1.75 per cent increase for 2021-22 recommended by the National Joint Council for local authorities employers.
They are asking for a two pay point uplift and a cost of living payment.
The union said it understands management have not sought any additional funding from the department to settle the pay dispute.
It said the strike action is resulting in a backlog of improvement work to public housing and is impacting on tenants including disabled residents who need conversion work carried out.
A spokesperson said: “It has been widely reported in the press that companies performing these tasks for those contracts which have been outsourced have had their fees increased by 20 or even 30 percent – while workers performing the same tasks in-house through the Direct Labour Organisation have been offered a mere 1.75 per cent improvement.”
General secretary of Unite Sharon Graham offered her continued support to the housing workers.
She said: “Our housing workers provide vital maintenance and improvement services to social housing tenants. This galling 1.75 per cent offer means they are left with no alternative but to extend their strike action for a pay increase.
“The absence of any movement to address our members’ pay claim and end this dispute from management is a truly shocking failure. Unite is full square behind these workers in their fight for a decent pay increase.”
Unite regional organiser Michael Keenan challenged the NIHE chief executive on her failure to engage directly with the union and called on the Communities Minister to intervene and end the dispute.
“While our members face the prospect of another four weeks standing on picket lines, social housing tenants are having to suffer as the list of vital work mounts ever higher causing a prolonged delay to the improvements e.g. fitting out units for those with disabilities or improving energy efficiency,” she said.
“We are genuinely shocked that NIHE chief executive Grainia Long has so far not even appeared at any meeting to discuss a resolution to this dispute. Unite is calling on Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey who has overall responsibility for the Housing Executive to intervene.
“The failure to resolve this dispute is punishing social housing tenants who are being denied the improvements they need. They deserve better and our members are demanding better.
“The Housing Executive has colossal reserves – easily more than enough to afford this increase to its workers. It is time they used those reserves to ensure that workers get the pay their deserve and tenants get the service they expect.”
This week, Darren Thompson, the union’s representative for the Portadown area, said neither he nor his colleagues wanted to be out on the picket line but that they were “miles behind on wages” and the situation was exacerbated by the cost of living increases.
A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said the pay award of 2021/22 for all staff was collectively agreed at a national level and the pay increases have already been implemented.
“In addition to the national pay negotiations, a local claim was submitted by NIPSA and Unite in June and these discussions are ongoing.
“We understand the impact of the rise in the cost of living and how it is affecting our colleagues.
“This is being considered at present through the 2022/23 national pay negotiations.
“A national pay offer was made on 25 July which includes £1,925 for all employees (providing higher pay increases (10.5%) for the lowest paid employees).
“We await the outcome of the national consultations on this offer and we’ll implement any agreement reached as quickly as possible.”