Unite members at Ulster Carpets in Portadown to vote on strike action after managers’ ‘move the goalposts’ on wage negotiations. 

Ulster carpets’ Managing Director Nick Coburn CBE challenged on his refusal to back date pay deal costing each worker £700.

Despite the sharp Covid downturn, Ulster Carpets Holdings Ltd continued to enjoy success and rack up the profits. In 2021 the Holdings company turns a pre-tax profit of more than £1.3 million and the top line of the highest paid director was more than £326k. 

But in recent pay negotiations management refused to backdate the proposed pay increase to the annual pay date [May]. As a result Unite is now moving a strike ballot of its members in Ulster Carpets.

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham, offered her union’s wholehearted support of the workforce:

“This manoeuvre by bosses is designed to deny workers at Ulster Carpets on average £700 each. By refusing to back date the deal the management are clearly ‘moving the goalposts’ of the negotiation. That’s not ‘good faith’ negotiating. Unite is fighting for the jobs pay and conditions of its members and make no mistake will back the Ulster Carpets workers in their fight for a proper pay deal”.

Ulster Carpets’ Managing Director Nick Coburn CBE is a prominent business champion in Northern Ireland. At a recent [Irish government] Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade sponsored Centre for Democracy and Peace Building Fellowship meeting, attended by Kate Nicholl the Lord Mayor of Belfast, he claimed that ‘we don’t see Ulster Carpets as just a business but part of the fabric of our community’.

Unite regional officer, Sean McKeever, challenged Mr Coburn on the gap between those words and the arch-capitalist approach his business was taking to their own workforce.

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Department of Education must intervene to ensure adoption of progressive policies by all schools in Northern Ireland

Taryn Trainor, Regional Equalities and Women’s Officer, Unite

Union highlights concerns over the low numbers of schools installing Education Authority carbon dioxide monitors and providing free period dignity products

As a result of contacts from education workers, Unite has identified that there has been a very low uptake of both free period dignity products and carbon dioxide sensors supplied free of charge by the Education Authority. The situation arises as a direct result of the ‘light-touch’ approach to schools’ policy by the Department of Education which means that the rollout of progressive policies is dependent on already overburdened management at individual schools. 

Unite Equalities and Women’s Officer, Taryn Trainor, spoke on the need for a comprehensive approach to roll-out period dignity products in schools across Northern Ireland.

“Unfortunately Stormont’s approach leaves pupils and workers dependent on the willingness and capacity of management in their local school to avail of, and adopt, progressive policies. If the resources dedicated to address period dignity in schools are not fully drawn down this year, this money is not likely to be available next year. We risk missing what is a huge opportunity to benefit low-income girls and persons needing sanitary products.”

Kieran Ellison

The carbon dioxide sensors detect concentrations of the colourless and clear gas which can act as a proxy to identify when an enclosed space needs more ventilation to help mitigate the risk of Covid transmission. The installation of carbon dioxide sensors by schools has been promoted by the Education Authority as a means to reduce risk of transmission in classrooms and to education workers. Unite regional officer for the education sector, Kieran Ellison, explained,

“This measure is too important to be left to individual schools – where management are often under such pressures that there is a missed opportunity to roll-out new measures and policies. Our members continue to work on the frontlines in education; they deserve better.

“The Education Minister must intervene to end the light touch approach to education policy – which leaves it as a lottery which measures are adopted by a particular school. We need to see the same rights and protections extended to pupils and workers at all schools in Northern Ireland – and that means a comprehensive approach from the Department of Education”, he concluded.

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Glen Dimplex in Portadown must end cycle of poverty pay by offering workers a decent pay rise

Unite has made a counter-offer to management to end debilitating strike and awaits management response

First day of strike action at home heater manufacturer resulted in a collapse in production. Two more strike days to follow.

Nine out of ten Glen Dimplex workers voted yesterday evening to reject a last minute pay offer by management. A vote which matched the strength of the previous ballot for strike action [96 percent for strike action]. Workers’ anger at the way they have been treated is growing day by day.

Workers’ pickets went up at 6am at the gates of Glen Dimplex and production at the site has collapsed as production workers joined the action. That produced a collapse in production which can only get worse as the strike action continues.

Sharon Graham, Unite General Secretary spoke out in favour of the workers’ action.  

The union members action has been bold and effective. They are now definitely in ‘Enough is Enough’ mode. They have the full support of Unite in their fight to end poverty pay.

“The employers in Northern Ireland just like those across the rest of the UK need to recognise that Unite is determined to improve our members’ jobs, raise pay and conditions, as never before.”

The strike follows months of inaction on pay talks by by Glen Dimplex management. The talks were meant to be resolved in April 2021. The company has not negotiated in any ‘good faith’ manner with the union throughout the dispute.

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Unite the union condemns NI Protocol related attack on Translink bus and one of its members in Newtownabbey

Translink workforce are left deeply angered at continuing attacks and feel that they are a political punchbag for issues above their head

Following discussions with management on measures to increase security and support for drivers, Unite the union condemned the attack on a Translink bus and driver last night in Newtownabbey.

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham expressed the solidarity of her union’s membership across Britain and Ireland for the Translink workforce who have suffered yet another attack as a result of rising community and political tensions over the NI Protocol.

“Last night’s attack like the previous two bus burning events is an attack on workers everywhere. The only outcome of this senseless act is that another bus driver – another member of our union – has been left traumatised. 

“Workers everywhere have the absolute right to go about their working day in peace and free from threat or intimidation.”

Since the attack, Unite has engaged its members on the ground and meet with Translink management to ensure the provision of all possible support to the drivers.  

Chair of Unite Metro bus drivers’ branch, Michael Dornan, spoke on behalf of drivers.

“I’ve spoken to the driver who was caught up in this incident. He is a Unite member that I know well. He has been left traumatised as a result of what he experienced last night and we are trying to provide him all the support possible.

“This attack must be condemned by all right thinking people. Translink drivers are deeply angered that we are always the political punchbag for issues we have no power over or hand in. All we do is provide a valuable public service for our communities but we are the ones who are on the front line. All politicians need to act and end these attacks on drivers.”

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Content moderators must be protected by proposed Online Safety Legislation

Unite highlights health and safety risk posed by distressing content

Responding to this week’s publication by the the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media of the report on the proposed Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill,  Unite – which represents workers in Samaritans Ireland – today (Thursday) said that content moderators working for online platforms are regularly exposed to distressing content and must be protected.  Unite is demanding that all health and safety assessments include working conditions which may impact on mental health, and that this is reflected in legislation.

Commenting on the report’s publication, Regional Officer Brian Hewitt said:

“We are disappointed that the report does not reflect the need to protect workers who may spend prolonged periods reviewing often disturbing content. Employers and regulators must adequately address the impact on workers’ mental health”.

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