Strike called off after legal problem

DISGRUNTLED workers taking part in a 24-hour strike over pension changes have been forced back to work after bosses challenged the protest on a legal technicality.

DISGRUNTLED workers taking part in a 24-hour strike over pension changes have been forced back to work after bosses challenged the protest on a legal technicality.

More than 100 employees of Grampian Country Pork took part in the action outside their Haverhill site claiming the new plans could cost them thousands of pounds when they retire.

But halfway through the action, they were advised to return to the factory floor after the company voiced concerns that the ballot process - which brought about the strike - was "legally flawed".

Although the precise details of the legal challenge last night remained sketchy, union chiefs confirmed that they had suspended strike action at Grampian sites across Great Britain and a self-imposed ban on overtime due to begin next week.

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A spokesman for the Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G) said: "In order to safeguard the interests of the union and its members, the T&G has with immediate effect suspended its industrial action with Grampian Foods pending further legal advice."

Last night, a company spokesman said: "We have now been informed by the external legal advisors of the T&G who have advised staff they should withdraw from all industrial action with immediate affect.

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"We understand they have confirmed our concerns that the ballot process was flawed legally. We have been advised that workers involved in the industrial action are being informed that they should return to work and all action scheduled for next week is now suspended."

Earlier in the day, staff morale was described as being at an all time low amid claims that some of the most experienced and loyal workers would now be hit in the pocket by the pension changes.

Senior shop steward Peter Inwood, who has worked for the company for 20 years, told the EADT: "The new pension is not beneficial to workers who have shown commitment and loyalty to the company.

"But bosses have become aware that loyalty brings old age which means the workforce is going to get slower. This is their way of getting rid of us and I know some who have already left.

"Closing the pension plan costs people who have shown loyal service. Staff morale is the lowest it has ever been on this site and this is the final straw.

"We are hoping the strike action will bring about a change to the pension scheme and a change in the way the company runs the site."

The pensions dispute began earlier this year after the company announced its plans to end a final salary pension scheme in favour of a money purchase scheme which union chiefs said was higher risk.

Employee Pauline Allen, 55, said she was livid when she heard about the changes in pensions, which she claims will force her to work until she was 65 years old after almost 30 years service.

"This change of pension has robbed me of thousands but put on an extra few years to my working life," she claimed.

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