Carnival is streets ahead
RACING to round off Newmarket's annual carnival went ahead this weekend despite a strike by stall handlers.An eleventh hour bid to avert the "one race per meeting" walkout failed and the staff, who lead horses into the starting stalls, downed tools at Suffolk's famous Rowley Mile course for the first race of the carnival card.
RACING to round off Newmarket's annual carnival went ahead this weekend despite a strike by stall handlers.
An eleventh hour bid to avert the "one race per meeting" walkout failed and the staff, who lead horses into the starting stalls, downed tools at Suffolk's famous Rowley Mile course for the first race of the carnival card.
The stall handlers are in dispute with their employers RaceTech, which controls technical aspects of racing, over proposals to cut travelling and accommodation expenses for staff who travel around the country's racecourses by around £7,000 each a year.
One of the stall handlers, who asked not to be named, told the EADT the group did not want to take strike action but felt they had little choice in the matter.
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He said: "They're trying to cut our money by around 25%. The work conditions haven't changed and we're not doing any less work. In fact, they're planning to increase the number of races so effectively we will be doing more work for less money.
"It's not as if we're asking for more money - we're happy with things as they are but we can't contemplate taking this cut."
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Saturday night's race meeting marked the third time the town's carnival had been held at the Rowley Mile and course bosses put together contingency plans in case the attempt to resolve the dispute failed.
The strike action meant the first race began with an old-fashioned flip start, as is the custom in jumps racing, using an elastic tape rather than mechanised stalls.
The alternative meant the strike did not unduly affect the race meeting and bosses said they wished for a timely and suitable conclusion to the dispute.
RaceTech claims it has been forced to make cuts because of a lack of funding from racecourses.
The next meeting called to reach a settlement will be held in Newmarket on Wednesday and staff have warned that if an agreement is not reached action will be stepped up to hit three races per meeting with an all out strike planned for Royal Ascot.
Organisers of Newmarket Carnival said the action did not hamper the celebrations.
They said the racing followed a fun-paced afternoon of activities including a parade of floats, an It's a Knockout contest, majorette displays and a papercraft workshop for youngsters.
A new car was the first prize in a dice-throwing competition organised to raise funds for Newmarket Upper School's special status bid. A pantomime horse race organised by Newmarket Round Table went ahead an hour before the real thoroughbreds took centre stage for the evening of racing.