Stall handlers call off action

INDUSTRIAL action which threatened to disrupt one of the highlights of the summer sporting calendar has been avoided following an eleventh hour meeting.

INDUSTRIAL action which threatened to disrupt one of the highlights of the summer sporting calendar has been avoided following an eleventh hour meeting.

Stall handlers, who are responsible for loading racehorses into the starting stalls, had threatened to down tools for the duration of the Royal Ascot meeting, which starts on Tuesday, over a pay dispute in which they stood to lose around £7,000 in travelling expenses.

After an emergency meeting in Newmarket yesterday , the 30 stall handlers, most of whom are based in the town, secured a satisfactory deal.

Peter Medhurst, regional Transport and General Workers Union(TGWU) organiser, who had been negotiating on the stall handlers' behalf, said: "This is a significant victory for the stall handlers, who make a vital contribution to the racing industry."

The stall handlers' employer, Race-tech, which handles technical aspects of horseracing, had presented staff with the prospect of a huge cut in their travelling allowance, which it said was due to a shortfall in funding from racecourses.

The new deal, which was reached at the third meeting in a week between staff, the TGWU, Race-Tech boss Sim Harris and conciliation and arbitration service ACAS, has secured the expenses and an annual pay rise of 2.5 per cent for the stall handlers.

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