Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Gateshead Strike at Barbour & Sons

YOU will be aware following our email before Christmas that Unite is in dispute with J. Barbour & Sons in Gateshead, who manufacture jackets which sell at retailers such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols and John Lewis Unite members who work in the warehouse at J. Barbour and Son Ltd are striking from Monday 5th January to Friday 30th January over forced changes to their contracts. The changes include the removal of the unsocial hours payment and the introduction of a requirement to work until 11 o’clock at night. The Gateshead company, which prides itself on ‘family values’, has been accused by Unite of being ‘anti-family’ with its “sign or be sacked” ultimatum. Workers, many with family and caring responsibilities, face being sacked if they don’t sign up to the new contracts by 30th January. The company submitted an Advance Notification of Redundancies (HR1 form) on 24th June 2014 on its intention to change contracts to make them more flexible for them and more consistent with the temporary workers on site. Unite members say that in reality the changes mean the 20% shift allowance to work unsocial hours was to be removed as well as the expectation of members to work until 11pm on basic pay in an isolated industrial estate which did not have any bus services running at that time. The company also failed to take into consideration the concern single mothers had with their childcare issues as well as other members with elderly care issues. Members voted over 90% in favour of action. The three week strike follows a six day stoppage earlier in December and will see Unite members striking from 07:30 to 13:00 hours Monday to Friday from 5th January – 30th January. The workers have the full support of Unite at regional and national level. Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown said: “Barbour’s sign or be sacked ultimatum is bullying and anti-family. Many of the workers struggling to get by on less than the living wage are the sole bread winner and have family or caring responsibilities. For a company that prides itself on "family values" to seek to rail road through cuts and unsocial changes to their contracts is hypocrisy of the highest order. The company should not underestimate the resolve of the workforce nor the impact that four weeks of strike action will have on supplies. Barbour management need to live up to the company’s "family friendly" values and negotiate a fair deal for its workforce.' Unite members at Barbour’s are picketing the company’s sites. Solidarity visits to the picket lines at Unit 13 and 14, at Follingsby Park, Wardley, Gateshead, NE10 8YG would be very much appreciated. Email messages of support and solidarity to Fazia.Hussainbrown@unitetheunion.org Financial support and donations should be forwarded to the Unite Leeds Regional Office, 55 Call Lane, Leeds. LS1 7BW marked Barbour Dispute - for the attention of the Regional Secretary - with cheques being made payable to Unite the Union. This money will then be sent onto the Barbour Branch via the Unite Leeds Office. In solidarity Tony Burke: Assistant General Secretary

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