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Birtley workforce strikes over pay

The 124 workers will need a short 13 days of strike action beginning on Wednesday 10th August and ending on Monday 22nd August.

This is followed by an additional 16 days of strike action beginning on Sunday 4th September and ending on Monday 19th September. A continuing overtime ban may also be set up from Wednesday 10th August.

Birtley and Bowater Doors share premises in Chester-le-Street and so are both section of Hill & Smith plc, a 700m-turnover industrial group with 3,600 employees that made a pre-tax profit of 80m this past year.

The dispute is because Birtley and Bowater making pay awards in January, with workers on different grades receiving different increases, which were below the rate of inflation. The workers recorded a 97% yes vote for strike action on a 77% turnout.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: The parent company is making record profits on the backs of our members effort. It could fully afford to produce a fair pay award but has chosen never to.

Unite is focused on prioritising the jobs, pay and conditions of its members. Our members at Birtley Group and Bowater Doors, a lot of whom are barely earning above the minimum wage, will receive Unites total support until this dispute is resolved plus they receive an offer which meets their expectations.

Birtley produces lintels for the construction industry, while Bowater produce UPVC doors for residential and business customers. Clients potentially facing shortages include Redrow, Bovis, Persimmon, Crest Nicholson and Countryside Properties.

Unite regional officer Pat McCourt said: Strike action may cause severe disruption to the firms clients, but this dispute is entirely of these own making, because of the failure to produce a fair offer to the loyal workforce. Management at Birtley and Bowater have to rapidly go back to the negotiating table with a good offer or be confronted with highly disruptive industrial action.

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