Two mass workplace meetings at Enniskillen timber mill vote to initiate strike ballot for proper recognition of Covid lockdown effort
Management claims that Covid recognition payment is included in a two and a half-year old pay deal are completely rejected by workforce
Gareth Scott, Regional Officer for Unite confirmed that his union would proceed to ballot its membership at Balcas after two workplace meetings voted for the move in face of the continued failure of bosses to recognise their efforts in working throughout the Covid lockdown. from 2019 show profits of £6.3 million
“Alongside workers in hospitals and in nursing homes, Balcas workers were among the few who were told they had to continue working throughout the Covid lockdown as their work was deemed essential. Management claimed that the timber mill needed to continue producing in order to supply the wood-pellet fired heating systems of government buildings, nursing homes and hospitals and provide pallets for the transport of food and medical supplies.
“The decision to continue full-scale production throughout the lockdown exposed the workers to elevated risk with many falling ill during Covid outbreaks.
“Unite shop stewards at Balcas sought a special Covid recognition payment for the workers’ efforts and sacrifice. During recent pay talks to conclude a three-year pay deal, management refused to discuss any additional payment stating it was a separate issue that could be discussed at a later date. Now bosses claim the recognition for working through Covid is reflected in the pay deal which they are telling workers is better than a one-off payment.
“Not surprisingly this approach by management has raised the ire of their workforce. The last straw was when management presented employees with a special ‘Covid chocolate’ bar. The anger on the shopfloor is palpable. At two mass workplace meetings the workforce voted to proceed with a ballot on all-out strike action to win respect and recognition of their efforts working throughout the Covid lockdown. Unite is now proceeding to initiate a formal strike ballot of the membership.
“The Balcas workforce has the full backing of our union, both locally and nationally, in their fight for basic decency and respect. We have a strike pay fund of £40 million with strike pay guaranteed these workers throughout any stoppage. Our members don’t want to have to strike but they won’t be disrespected this way. Unite is calling on Balcas, and prospective new owners Glennon brothers, to resolve this and avert unnecessary disruption”, Mr Scott concluded.