Around 100 workers took to the picket line outside two Portadown sites of global firm Glen Dimplex on Wednesday and again this morning (Thursday)
Glen Dimplex UK Ltd was served notice of strike action last week after the majority of Unite the Union members voted in a ballot calling for a Living Wage.
This is the first three day strike action and they plan to stay until Friday.
Unite the union claimed their first day of action led to a collapse in production at the factory.
A spokesperson for Unite said on Wednesday evening: “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]. Workers’ anger at the way they have been treated is growing day by day.
“Pickets went up at 6am at the gates of Glen Dimplex and production at the site collapsed as the overwhelming majority of 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 said: “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.”
A Unite spokesperson said: “Glen Dimplex is a hugely successful company, commanding more than 70 percent of the home heating market. The Portadown site is one where new lines are being introduced to profit from the surge in demand for its highly energy efficient products.
“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.
“Unite put forward a counter-proposal pay offer to the Labour Relations Agency on Wednesday morning which includes a recognition of the efforts of the workforce throughout the Covid pandemic as well as a respectable back pay deal.”
Regional Officer, Neil Moore said that management knew what was needed to end the dispute and avoid a likely escalation.
“Originally this dispute was about workers achieving pay justice and a genuine Living Wage. Now that workers, some of whom have worked more than 20 years at the site, have been forced onto picket lines it’s about securing respect as well as putting a permanent end to the cycle of poverty pay.
“The cost of the workforce pay claim for the full year is less than what we estimate the company lost on Wednesday in production, or for that matter the amount they paid one of their Directors. Management know what is needed to end this and show their workers respect.”
In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, a company spokesperson said: “Glen Dimplex Portadown is fully committed to providing a fair rate of pay which is sustainable in a highly competitive sector.
“Glen Dimplex is grateful to the majority of its staff in Portadown for continuing to work as normal towards a consensual and sustainable outcome and appeals to Unite to re-engage in a meaningful manner with the Labour Relations Agency process that commenced earlier this week.
“Glen Dimplex also wishes to clarify the following: Glen Dimplex current base pay rates already exceed the National Living Wage and as part of the current discussions Glen Dimplex has already offered an increase that would exceed what is known as the real living wage and has addressed both requests for backpay and one-off payments.
“In addition to this higher base pay, workers also benefit from an hourly bonus payment further increasing pay levels above the real living wage and that Unite members who voted in favour of industrial action account for a minority of the Portadown site workforce.”
Neil Moore, Unite Regional Officer responded to the firm’s statement saying: “The Glen Dimplex statement is replete with misrepresentations and is a clear attempt to undermine a successful conclusion to the ongoing negotiations. This shows an acute lack of respect to our members and our union. It is a shame that Glen Dimplex appear to have spent more time on press releases full of inaccuracies and misrepresentations than finding a solution that acceptable to our members.
“Unite remains ready and available at all times to bring this dispute to a successful conclusion for our members, we have been engaging with the Labour Relations Agency throughout Wednesday and remain willing to do so tomorrow.
“The overwhelming majority of full-time production workers were resolute in their support for, and participation in, today’s strike. This action follows two ballots in the high ninety percent in favour of strike action and to reject the latest offer as being inadequate.
“Unite sources from within the factory indicate that production on-site was less than a quarter of what it would have been normally – and that with running a skeleton staff.”
“Our members’ demands are for a genuine Living Wage with a fair and reasonable rate of backpay, not the ‘national’ Living Wage introduced by the Tory party which is the bare legal minimum for workers aged over 23.”
Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart said: “These are difficult days for a lot of local people and families, and I felt it important that I stood with the workers here at Glen Dimplex who are asking for a very slight increase in their wages.
“We all know the cost of living has increased substantially in recent months, and I would urge the company management to look with favour upon this appeal from staff.”