Unite, the UK’s largest union, is preparing to ballot members for industrial action after Fortem, which undertakes maintenance and repair work on Rotherham council’s housing stock, announced it had derecognised the union.

The announcement that Fortem, which is a subsidiary of Wilmott Dixon, had without warning de-recognised the union, occurred as the company is preparing to make around 20 of its staff redundant.

Fortem has refused to enter into any meaningful consultation with Unite over the redundancies and when challenged by Unite on the matter, replied that the union had been derecognised.

The derecognition announcement is particularly surprising as Fortem has previously willingly recognised and accredited Unite shops stewards and activists.

The redundancies are principally in administration and managerial roles and some of the work is to be transferred from Rotherham to the organisation’s head office in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.

Unite had been seeking to find alternatives to redundancy and to extend the pool from which workers could seek voluntary redundancy in order to avoid compulsory redundancies.

Unite will now hold a mass meeting of its members at Fortem and begin the process of balloting for industrial action. It is also considering if legal action can be taken against the company.

Unite regional officer Shane Sweeting, said: “This is an outrageous attack on union rights by Fortem. Unite will be using all avenues open to it, whether that is industrial or legal, to get this decision overturned.

“Fortem is supplying services on behalf of Rotherham council and it is completely unacceptable that council taxpayer’s money is being used to derecognise the union rather than repair tenants’ homes.

“Unite will be lobbying Rotherham council to apply pressure on Fortem to reverse this decision.

“If industrial action does go ahead then tenants will be denied vital repairs and maintenance projects will be delayed, purely as a result of Fortem’s misguided and ill-judged attack on Unite.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235. Email: barckley.sumner@unitetheunion.org

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.