Fourth day of strike action is planned at Suffolk printers in furore over pay

Employees CPI William Clowes will take a fourth day of strike after the company offered a two year p

Employees CPI William Clowes will take a fourth day of strike after the company offered a two year pay freeze last year. - Credit: Archant

Print workers who claim to have been given just two pay rises in the last 14 years are hatching plans for a fourth day of strike action.

The workers at the Beccles company CPI William Clowes, which is one of the UK’s largest manufacturers of directories and reference books, are planning to walk out for 24 hours on 13 February.

It will be the fourth time strike action has been called at the site since November, over the company’s current offer of a two year pay freeze from April 2018.

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The union Unite has pledged that there would be further strike action in the run-up to Easter if the management did not enter into constructive talks on pay.

However, CPI William Clowes’ general manager Spencer Armes describes the claims of two pay rises in the last 14 years as “inaccurate”. “I am not at liberty to say the truth,” he said. “The union have been spoken to within the last few weeks and they have voted for strike action. But the door is open, and we have spoken to the workforce.”

Mr Arms says that 67 of the firm’s 92 employees are union members, “so only two thirds of the workforce,” although Unite claims that it has 75 members at the Copland Way site.

The union states that the management “still adamantly refused” to put a firm proposal on the table since the workers first took a day’s strike action in November.

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The workers voted by 71% for strike action and by 87% for industrial action short of a strike.

Union members are already operating an overtime ban.

Unite regional officer Mark Walker said: “The management at CPI William Clowes needs to recognise the continual hard work that our loyal members put in year in, year out. The management claim that they want to resolve this dispute, but have shown extreme reluctance in putting a firm pay proposal on the table.

“The members have shown a great deal of resilience and solidarity during this dispute, buoyed up by the support from the local community.”

Mr Walker claims that workers have only had pay rises twice in recent years - one about a decade ago and another, of 1%, in 2017.

“It is a shameful indictment of this company which is part of the profitable CPI Group UK,” he added.

Last July, the £320m-turnover CPI Group was acquired by Circle Media Group, a leading European print and media group.

CPI, which is based in France, has sales of around £100m and has 16 factories spread out over 5 countries - France, the UK, Germany, Spain and Czech Republic. The company’s dominance in Europe raises the possibility of the company being tempted to move its UK facility to Europe in the event of a hard or no deal Brexit.

“I think Brexit is a whole can of worms that none of us really know about so can’t comment on that,” said Mr Armes.

William Clowes Ltd is a British printing company founded in London in 1803 by William Clowes which was one of the world’s largest printing companies in the mid-19th century. The company merged with Caxton Press, operated by William Moore in Beccles, in the late 19th century and concentrated its business in the town following World War II.