Craft workers in demand at West Dunbartonshire Council as housing repairs overdue

Housing repairs are outstanding as the council struggles to recruit and retain skilled workers attracted by higher pay elsewhere.

The local authority says an increased demand in craft workers, which include electricians and plumbers, has driven up salary and remuneration levels.

Chiefs say the situation is making it “very difficult” for council chiefs to attract and hold on to permanent and temporary workers in comparison to the private sector.

There are around 30 less full-time jobs in the workforce than there were before the pandemic, with electricians, plumbers and joiners in demand.

The team are also experiencing difficulties in securing additional support from back up contractors who are reporting resource challenges.

The situation was laid out in a report which was discussed by councillors at a recent meeting.

It states: “With the increased demand for craft workers across the industry, and the resultant shortage in skills, we are not able to recruit the additional employees needed to address the outstanding repairs.”

It comes as West Dunbartonshire Council works through a backlog of repairs which have stacked up throughout the pandemic.

Housing officers say “good progress” is being made, though 60 percent fall outwith the performance target time for completion.

Meanwhile, those waiting for emergency repairs are having to wait an average of almost six hours, compared to the target of four hours.

The council says high levels of staff absence across building services is also having an impact.

Labour member Gail Casey said the council need to attract and keep craft workers by paying them higher wages.

She said: “Whether it takes negotiation or whatever we’re not paying our staff, our electricians, plumbers and joiners enough when they’re going elsewhere and really need to get the negotiations going.

“We really have to think about paying them more so we get staff to do the jobs that we need doing, particularly with regards to repairs.”

Angela Wilson, chief officer for supply, distribution and property, confirmed that talks were underway with trade unions.

She said: “I have begun discussions with the trade unions around a number of things, including consideration of the jobs of craft workers and the remuneration and hours of work.

“I’ve had one meeting specifically on that and I have another meeting set up for January 6 on further discussion so we are looking at what we can do in relation to the current salaries, how they compare with the national picture because there are differences across different trades.”

Councillor Lawrence O’Neill said the council should look at training craft workers through apprenticeships, asking: “What are we doing about growing our own?”

Chief Executive Joyce White replied: “I have recently raised with our wider community planning partnership management group the fact that we would like to see more apprentices right across the landscape of West Dunbartonshire and we are encouraging them to do all they can.”

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