MAINTENANCE staff at the region’s biggest housing association have called off a planned strike.

A pay-and-terms dispute involving the property services department at Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA) led to the Unite union balloting its members.

Although every one of the members who took part - believed to be more than 70 - voted in favour of strike action, union bosses have suspended any industrial action until the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

Unite’s regional officer Willie Thomson said: “Unite’s members in SBHA should be commended for the decision they have taken at this time.

“It’s a decision taken despite the imposition of detrimental changes to their terms and conditions of employment.

“However, we recognise that at present local communities face an unprecedented threat to public health and that’s why our members have chosen to continue to provide their vital support to SBHA tenants.

“Let’s remember that many of the tenants are at an increased risk of complications should they contract the virus.

“We hope that the generous proposition by our members to suspend action is reciprocated by SBHA and that an acceptable resolution to this dispute can be reached.”

SBHA took over the housing stock of Scottish Borders Council in 2003.

And it currently provides homes to more than 5,500 tenants across the region.

The property services department provides maintenance and repairs to all of the properties, including heating and electric problems.

But proposed changes to the workforce’s contracts has led to heated meetings and this month’s strike ballot.

Board members of the Selkirk-based authority believe the current terms and conditions of the department are out of date.

A spokesperson told us: “"SBHA’s working practices and pay structure were established in 2003 and are no longer fit-for-purpose for a modern organisation so we set out to update them to reflect how employment practices - and SBHA itself - have changed in the 17 years since.

"SBHA is a charitable organisation and has a duty to provide our tenants with maximum value for money and to keep rents affordable, always.

“There is a need to balance this ultimate responsibility with the desire to provide our employees with affordable, competitive packages that reward, retain and attract the best talent.”