Employers in pay strike warning

HUNDREDS of staff considering strike action at one of west Suffolk's largest employers have been warned it could have devastating consequences and threaten the future success of the troubled business.

Dave Gooderham

HUNDREDS of staff considering strike action at one of west Suffolk's largest employers have been warned it could have devastating consequences and threaten the future success of the troubled business.

As staff prepare to take part in a secret vote on industrial action over a long-running pay rise dispute, bosses at Delphi Diesel Systems in Sudbury said a walk-out would cause “maximum disruption”.

Disgruntled workers have voiced their disgust claiming a proposed below-inflation wage increase was nothing more than a pay cut.

But, in a letter to union members, their employers warned any strike action could persuade “decision makers” to allocate new business to more reliable sites.

Delphi, Sudbury's largest employer with about 900 workers, claimed that its “final offer” of a 2.5% increase - or 3.5% if shift pay is removed from the company sick scheme - was fair in the current economic climate, especially as the American-owned firm was emerging from bankruptcy proceedings.

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In a letter to union members, Steve Coppock, human resource manager, said: “The basis of industrial action is to create maximum disruption and the consequence of this will be devastating for Delphi Sudbury and hasten the time when customers seek to buy products elsewhere.

“It is likely to persuade Delphi decision makers to allocate new business to sites that can be relied upon, particularly as the corporation recovers from bankruptcy and needs to impress new investors.

“Although currently there is not a threat to job security, tight cost controls are already in place across the business. The offers made are very reasonable in the current trading climate and will not or cannot be increased. In these difficult times, hopefully you agree job security is paramount.”

The threat of strike action follows four months of negotiations which saw the company and union chiefs meet weekly but remain “poles apart”.

On-site union official, Paul Brewster, a convenor for Amicus, said: “Staff moral is pretty low at the moment as workers don't feel they are being paid what they deserve. In effect, they are being asked to accept a pay cut.”

Peter Stevens, regional industrial officer for Unite , said a secret ballot, asking staff whether they would like to strike, was expected to take place within two weeks.

He said: “The company is not prepared to meet the rate of inflation as it obviously has its own difficulties and problems. But our staff are facing rocketing food and fuel costs. Our chief concern is our union members but we still hope we can achieve some kind of compromise without the need of strike action.”

No one from Delphi was available for comment last night.

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