THE region’s largest registered social landlord has confirmed it is seeking to cut its manual workforce.

Bosses at the Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA) were due to open a consultation regarding their proposals with officers of the trade union Unite yesterday afternoon.

“Any decision to reduce the workforce is a difficult one to make,” said a spokesperson for SBHA, which has around 6,000 rented properties.

“However, we have a duty to ensure our team is resourced appropriately to deliver outstanding service to our tenants in the most cost-effective and efficient way possible over the coming years.

“We believe this exercise will leave us with a property services team that is ideally equipped to meet the needs of tenants and our network.

“SBHA is committed to supporting colleagues throughout the consultation period.”

The association was responding after the Peeblesshire News learned that 11 painters and decorators among the 90-strong property services team had been invited to apply for voluntary redundancy.

“We can confirm that staff have been informed we are seeking to reduce the number of painters by three,” said the spokesperson.

“Beyond that, we do not wish to pre-judge the outcome of any discussions associated with the change which is required by our planned maintenance programme.”

Allan Graham, a former SBHA employee and Unite shop steward who lives in Innerleithen, said there were fears among the manual workforce that this was the “tip of the iceberg” and an acceleration of a trend towards more work being sub-contracted and outsourced.

Tony Trench, regional industrial organiser of Unite, said he would be attending yesterday’s meeting at SBHA’s Selkirk headquarters.

“There has so far been no official consultation with the union over what is proposed, but I understand SBHA is hoping to achieve its workforce reduction by voluntary means,” said Mr Trench.

“Among other things, we will be seeking to ascertain if any compulsory redundancies are being considered.”