Staff at the small clinic in east London, members of the architectural union UVW-SAW, begin the procedure after a long-running dispute over pay, working hours and flexibility.
In a joint statement, Atomik employees said the planned strike was a “last resort” and that they were launching the operation after the practice consistently “rejected” and ignored their concerns.
They said, “We were expecting to cooperate to improve conditions in this practice, but instead we had months of empty promises and zero progress. We have all worked at Atomik for a number of years, but this loyalty has not been reciprocated in improving wages or working conditions.”
The UVW-SAW union described the strike as “historic”. She said members of many practices were looking “very seriously” to industrial work as the cost-of-living crisis was exacerbated by long-stagnant sector wages.
All eight employees at the clinic are currently on notice of dismissal, with managers announcing a consultation after the union announced a formal dispute.
The dispute over wages arose from annual reviews of employees in June, in which employees received a minimum 4 percent salary increase, as well as one-time bonuses of 3 percent.
At the time, employees made a counter-offer, demanding 10 percent wage increases which at the time were in line with inflation or a 7 percent increase with a negotiated profit-sharing model.
According to UVW-SAW, this has been ignored. Management then met with workers earlier this year but “refused to negotiate,” prompting employees to notify managers they were entering into a dispute.
The union claimed that Atomik’s response was to launch redundant consultations, which would “likely lead to dismissal”. However, practice said the layoffs were separate and not related to the proposed strike.
Atomik employees are now demanding 10 per cent pay increases, reduced hours from 9-6 to 9-5, and flexible working arrangements with two days of telecommuting per week.
They also want paid internships, as CPDs are currently required to be taken during unpaid lunch breaks, as well as trade union recognition.
Mike Odis, director of Atomik, said the June wage increases were the “maximum” of the offer the practice could make, and it had received independent advice on how best to deliver in the “context of the current cost of living crisis”.
He added that a 7 percent increase in salary was recommended as well as a 3 percent immediate bonus, as it was felt that this provided a better result at the time for everyone.
Oades told AJ that this pay increase was not uniform across the board and that one employee received a 13.5 percent salary increase plus a 3 percent bonus in recognition of their role in the exercise and that stock managers did not receive a salary increase.
He added: “In addition to salaries, we always pay the full Part Three course fee and provide generous support and study leave. In addition to their salaries, three of UVW Members have benefited from this in the past three years.
UVW-SAW representative Jake Arnfield said: “What we hear from our membership is that most workers are not getting the wage increases they need. In a sector that has had wage stagnation for at least 20 years, the cost of living crisis is worsening — particularly for those in the the lower end of the wage scale.
Many groups of architecture workers are looking very seriously at industrial work as a way to solve this problem. If even one strike occurred, it could trigger a wave of strikes in architecture this fall and winter.
UVW Petros Elia General Secretary added: “We believe our members at Atomik are the first ever private group of architects to vote for a strike, so if this strike continues, it will be an industry first, and all architects and members of the movement should fall behind.
I invite the Atomik chiefs to negotiate with us and avoid what could become incredibly practical and damage the reputation and which will have the full support of our union. it’s your choice.’
According to UVW-SAW, the poll comes after years of growing frustration over issues such as unpaid overtime and flexibility in UK architecture practices.
The Architectural Workers Division, which is located within the London-based Union Voices of the World (UVW), was set up in 2019 to combat what it called “the industry in crisis”.
Atomik Architecture, a RIBA-certified firm that also has an office in Kazakhstan, was remodeled in 2013 after a five-year hiatus by Mike Odis and Derek John Draper. Includes recent work 3.2 million pounds sterling from Holland Park School in West London.