STAFF at a Cwmbran housing association on strike over their pay being reduced by more than £3,000 per year were paid a visit by their local politicians.

Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds and Lynne Neagle AM spoke to those on the picket line outside the Bron Afon offices at Llantarnam Business Park yesterday. It is the third day of industrial action after the majority of staff in the firm’s supported living team saw their wages slashed from £23,572 to £20,416.

The “human cost” of the dispute were was made clear according to Mr Thomas-Symonds, who said that one worker had told him they had stopped paying into their pension to try and to plug the wage gap.

“We don’t forget that a strike is a last resort, the workers here will obviously be losing a day’s pay by taking this industrial action,” he added.

Ms Neagle said that those she had spoken to were “deeply worried” about striking and hoped that the situation between them and Bron Afon could be resolved as soon as possible.

She added: “There are people here of all ages, people with families and they’re losing money while out on strike.

At emergency talks held by Unison on Wednesday July 19, the trade union has claimed Bron Afon has the money to allow support workers to be paid at their original rate. Unison has dismissed a last-minute offer from Bron Afon as “feeble” and questioned whether the employer genuinely wanted to resolve the dispute.

Cheryl Morgan, the union’s Torfaen branch secretary, believes Bron Afon should be “ashamed at its lack of morals” and that they were taking thousands of pounds off “those caring for the vulnerable”.

“They have treated staff despicably and made them ill with the stress of struggling to make ends meet with drastically reduced salaries,” she added.

But Catherine Pullin, head of inclusion and support at Bron Afon, believes it is “inaccurate” to call the dispute a pay cut and said she was “surprised” at the strike after the supported living team helped them win the tender to provide the new service.

She said: “Last year the team were told that to be competitive and win the contract it was likely that pay would have to be reduced in the new jobs that would be created and advertised for the new service. The staff had at least six months’ notice.

“Applicants chose to apply for the new jobs which kept many excellent terms and conditions including pension, holiday, sick pay and access to a heath scheme.”

“Successful applicants were offered the jobs which also had the benefit of being permanent and not fixed-term and they all then chose to sign the contacts.

“That is why are surprised at this strike action from staff who applied for the jobs and were involved in the changes that helped us win the tender.

She added the salaries for these jobs are consistently higher than for other similar jobs advertised in this area.She added: “This is a risk to us as it uses up money that we might need later in the year but we wanted to signal that we are keen to resolve this dispute.”