Strike by Caterpillar workers at Larne and Belfast results in huge impact to production on site
Unite, the union representing Caterpillar workers who commenced strike action yesterday [Monday 11 April], has hit out at management whose failed attempts to undermine the strike have resulted in mounting concerns for workers’ health and safety.
Over the weekend reports circulated that untrained employees at sites in Britain were being offered money to take up production roles at the company’s two Northern Ireland sites during the dispute. In a letter to Unite responding to its challenges over the health and safety implications of such a deployment, Caterpillar management claimed that “the health and safety of all our workers is of paramount importance and…safety is our number 1 priority.”
However, on the first day of strike action (yesterday) a striking worker was hit by a HGV as it was attempting to speed past the pickets. The worker escaped with minor injuries as he was able to jump out of the way but left Unite questioning how encouraging drivers to cross picket lines tallied with a purported commitment to worker safety.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham blasted the behaviour of Caterpillar: “Caterpillar’s greed is on full display. It would rather make dangerous attempts to break the strike, putting workers and the public at risk, than pay its workforce fairly.
“That is utterly irresponsible and a disgraceful way to treat a workforce that has powered Caterpillar to huge profitability.
“These moves only redouble my union’s determination to ensure that our members secure the pay and respect that they deserve.”
Despite management efforts the strike action at both sites has massively impacted production and a large number of vehicles turned back from pickets as their drivers refused to cross the picket line.
According to Unite, Caterpillar has made billions in profit but is denying the workforce in Northern Ireland a fair pay deal while handing more than $2 billion to shareholders.
Regional officer for the workforce, George Brash, added:“This near-miss highlights the dangers of management pushing drivers to cross picket lines instead of addressing the Caterpillar workers’ pay demands. We are giving our member our full support over this matter.
“Time and again Caterpillar has tried to break our members’ resolve and has failed. Our members are standing firm in their fight for a fair pay increase and an end to anti-union activities.
“Instead of these attempts to strike-break, Caterpillar would be much better served to comprehensively address the pay claim of its workforce.”
Unite members continue to man picket lines at both Springvale and Larne Caterpillar sites.