Housing Association Workers to Strike Over Asbestos Fears

WORKERS AT SOCIAL HOUSING LANDLORD Magenta Living are striking next week over fears that new working practices will expose them to asbestos.

The 100 plus workers, who are members of Unite the union, are employed in repair and maintenance roles for Magenta Living, which manages 13,000 properties on the Wirral.

Asbestos Fears

The union says Magenta Living has imposed a change of policy when dealing with asbestos. Previously, the workforce was trained that when they identified asbestos they had to stop work. If it required removal, specialist contractors were employed. Under the new policy the workers are expected to work with asbestos, Unite says.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The actions of Magenta Living are deplorable. It is trying to force our members to undertake work they are not properly trained for, which risks their lives and those of tenants.

“Unite never takes a backward step when it comes to ensuring the safety of its workers and our members at Magenta will receive the union’s complete support.”

Talks aimed at reversing Magenta Living’s decision on asbestos have broken down.

A Magenta Living spokesperson said, “These procedures follow Health and Safety Executive guidance, and we believe they mirror industry best practice widely adopted across the housing sector and amongst the construction industry nationwide. We have also employed an industry specialist to help address the perceived risk amongst our workforce including more advanced training.

“We are deeply saddened that this strike action is planned despite us continuing to hold discussions throughout this week with the offer of additional remuneration, further training, help and support.”

Strike Action

The workers will begin strike action on Monday 6 February for a week and then will be on strike every other week, with the final week of the initial industrial action due to begin on Monday 17 April. In total, the workers are due to take 30 days of strike action.

The union said strikes will result in tenants of Magenta Living experiencing severe delays in repairs and maintenance.

Magenta Living asserts that all emergency and urgent repair requests will be dealt with in the usual way , although it concedes there may be some disruption to routine repairs which will need to be moved to a later date.

Asbestos Deaths

There were over 5,000 deaths due to exposure to asbestos in 2020 (the latest figures). This includes over 2,500 from mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lung caused by being exposed to asbestos.

Construction workers are now the group at greatest risk of being exposed to asbestos. Asbestos was not finally banned in the UK until 2000 and many of the homes built before that date contain the substance.

Unite regional officer John Sheppard said: “Strike action will inevitably lead to severe delays and disruption to tenants’ homes. However, this industrial action is being taken as a last resort as Magenta Living is introducing policies that risk the lives of its staff and tenants.

“Magenta Living has been given every opportunity to resolve this dispute through negotiations but it has refused to do so,” he added.

>>Read more about asbestos safety in the news

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