REPAIR staff at a major council contractor could down tools in a row over pay and sick days.

Members of the GMB trade union working for Mears Group could strike in March, April and May if they

vote for action in a two-week ballot.

The firm has a £200 million contract with Brighton and Hove City Council to repair council houses across the city.

Though the contract is set to expire in April, GMB Brighton secretary Mark Turner said the pay dispute needed to be resolved before staff were moved back in-house.

“The city council needs to press Mears to settle this dispute now, otherwise they will find themselves having to deal with yet another Mears mess in reaching a pay settlement with GMB,” he said.

“Mears Group leaving and the transfer of services and staff back to the council is going to be a real positive for Brighton and Hove.

“Our members can enjoy the security of working back in the public sector and

directly for the good of the city in which many of them live.”

The strike ballot follows failed negotiations over a pay rise and plans by Mears to combine holiday and sick pay.

The vote opened on Friday and will close on February 21.

If the strike goes ahead, workers in different trades are set to walk out across various dates in March, April, and May.

GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said: “As a result of Mears’ refusal to come back to the table and commence discussions with the GMB we could see staff walkouts and action taken from March onwards.”

Mears Group and Brighton and Hove City Council were unable to comment before print. The repair firm was awarded a valuable ten-year contract in 2010 for council house repairs.

But two years ago Labour and Green councillors voted to bring the repair services in-house once the contract expired despite estimates it could cost an extra £4 million.