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Thursday, 30 October 2014

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Factory staff back industrial action in pay row

Workers at a chemical plant have voted in favour of industrial action in a dispute over pay.

Related: Pay offer is realistic, claim Cumbrian chemical plant bosses

Union members at Eastman Chemicals in Workington voted to ballot for industrial action at the Siddick site after rejecting the firm’s original offer of a 2.8 per cent pay rise.

The results of a secret ballot for industrial action have been revealed, with 71.3 per cent of the 88 per cent who voted, in favour.

GMB union members now have 28 days to take industrial action, but members are hopeful that a deal could still be reached with Eastman bosses to avoid a strike.

GMB regional organiser Kevin Young said: “I’m happy with the result, but I’m not happy with the circumstances that brought it about.

“We urge the company to get round the table and try to reach a settlement. If they don’t, we will serve our notice to take industrial action.”

Negotiations have been underway with the company since January in an attempt to secure a pay offer that covered inflation.

The union had put forward its own plan to the company, which included an inflationary pay rise.

Mr Young said they were looking for a rise in line with the Retail Price Index, which currently stands at 3.3 per cent.

He said that asking union members to take a “pay cut” in times of austerity was “nothing less than corporate greed”.

However, the company said it felt the current offer of three per cent – which was also rejected by staff – was very reasonable considering the current economic climate.

Eastman Chemicals, which employs about 160 people at the Workington plant, is a manufacturer of Acetate Tow, which is used to make cigarette filters.

A spokeswoman for Eastman said: “The company is disappointed that members of the GMB union have voted for strike action.

“Eastman has one of the best pay and benefits packages in the area and we believe the offer, which was higher than the average of local settlements and the March inflation rates, was very reasonable considering the current economic conditions.

“The company has contingency plans in place and we are ready to activate those plans if and when the strike action moves forward.”

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