April 5th: Derrylin result follows decisive vote by Encirc workforce in Elton, Cheshire rejecting inadequate management pay offer
Unite to establish Encirc joint-bargaining spanning Irish sea with strike ballot planned to proceed concurrently across both sites
Michael Keenan, Unite Regional Officer responsible for his union’s Encirc membership at its site in Derrylin, County Fermanagh, confirmed that his union would be proceeding to a strike ballot of workers after production workers at the site rejected a below-inflation management pay offer.
“Encirc’s production site in Derrylin is highly profitable and the company has a dominant position in the market for glassware in Ireland, north and south. Despite this the company’s workforce remains underpaid for what is a difficult, and can be a dangerous, job; those who work at the hot-end under the incessant heat of the blast furnaces have to take regular shelter in a chill room to avoid overheating. Unfortunately despite these oppressive conditions of work, Encirc’s employees in Fermanagh remain low-paid despite the success of the company.
“The workforce in Derrylin has been subjected to below-inflation pay increases for a number of years now and substantial differences in pay have arisen between them and their colleagues at their sister site in Elton, Cheshire. As such, the workforce reps put forward a pay claim seeking a significant uplift to wages but unfortunately, management responded with a below inflation pay offer. Their proposed increase was less than the current Retail Price Index, the measure that reflects the cost of living increase actually experienced by working-class people, and would represent a further reduction in the workforce’s standard of living.
“Meanwhile separately Unite members in Elton were offered a higher pay increase than in Derrylin – this time marginally above the current RPI rate – but one which still failed to address the fact that pay is below average for the industry.
“In response, Unite proceeded with consultative ballots of both workforces on the pay offers. On a turnout of 66 percent in Derrylin, 92 percent of workers in the factory voted for rejection. In Elton turnout was 75 percent and the rejection rate was 95 percent. These results reflect an overwhelming demand from both workforces for a pay improvement. Since the ballots, the workforces have voted to establish a joint-bargaining unit spanning the Irish sea to present Encirc bosses with a united workers’ front.
“In the run up to the ballot, and through the efforts of Unite’s organising team, the numbers joining Unite has sharply increased, leaving the Encirc factory in Fermanagh with one of the highest union densities anywhere in Northern Ireland. Once we have established the joint-bargaining unit, Unite will initiate concurrent ballots across both sites for strike action in pursuit of a decent pay increase. Given the new, anti-trade union laws in force in England we will have to ensure a significant turnout for any ballot for industrial action to have legal effect but the establishment of a joint-bargaining unit will only increase the confidence of workers.
“In advance of that ballot we call on Encirc management to see sense and avoid the risk of an unnecessary disruption to business operations. The workers are determined to secure a fair pay increase – what is needed is an offer that meets the workers’ legitimate expectations for a better life”, Mr Keenan concluded.