Turkey factories face strike action

By Jenni DixonHUNDREDS of turkey factory staff are to go on strike over a plan to extend their working week.Members of the Transport and General Workers' Union at the Bernard Matthews' turkey plants in Holton and Great Witchingham, Norfolk, will stage a one-day strike on Monday.

By Jenni Dixon

HUNDREDS of turkey factory staff are to go on strike over a plan to extend their working week.

Members of the Transport and General Workers' Union at the Bernard Matthews' turkey plants in Holton and Great Witchingham, Norfolk, will stage a one-day strike on Monday.

The industrial action is being staged in protest at the company's decision to change employees' working patterns from a four-day shift to a five-day week.


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The union, which represents almost 60% of the 1,500 workers at Holton and the 1,200 production force at Great Witchingham, said its members had voted two-to-one in favour of strike action, despite the offer a £18.33-a-week pay rise.

Peter Medhurst, the union's regional industrial organiser, said: “We said at the outset of talks that the people who work a four-day week wanted to keep it that way.

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“They voted overwhelmingly to keep their shift as it suited their family circumstances and working preferences.

“When we confirmed strike action, morale went up because our members know we're fighting back for them.”

The union said the change in working patterns would directly affect about 1,000 employees, who faced increased transport and childcare costs - and claimed the pay rise would be financed by cutting 100 jobs.

The one-day strike, and an overtime ban, is planned at both plants, starting at 6am on Monday and ending at 5.59am on Tuesday.

However, management at Bernard Matthews said last night they were looking to prevent any action by withdrawing the shift pattern changes.

“A strike would cause financial hardship to the vast majority of our employees who do not wish to take part in this action,” they added.

“We are, therefore, prepared to withdraw the change to shift patterns in order to further understand the problems of the minority who voted for a strike.

“Only 429 people voted in favour of strike action and we are surprised that a small minority vote can result in such an action, particularly when the union said it had 'no mandate' when the result of the ballot was first declared.”

But Mr Medhurst said although he would be seeking clarification of the company's intentions, the strike would go ahead on Monday. “We are not convinced that this is not another delaying tactic,” he added.

jenni.dixon@eadt.co.uk

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