Workers back down in pay dispute

By Patrick LowmanNIGHT workers at an engineering firm have been forced to back down in a lengthy dispute with management over changes in their working hours.

By Patrick Lowman

NIGHT workers at an engineering firm have been forced to back down in a lengthy dispute with management over changes in their working hours.

Union officials at Delphi Automotive Systems in Sudbury, the town's largest employer, have admitted defeat in the dispute involving night staff.

But they warned there could be strike action if bosses refused to protect other working hours and conditions.

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The dispute erupted when 21 night workers at the firm received termination of contract notices, which would have been enforced if they did not agree to change their working hours.

The action meant the workers would either have to work an extra night a week or transfer to double-day shifts, resulting in a loss of between £1,600 and £2,400 a year.

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It caused a storm of protest, with officials from both the Transport and General Workers Union and Amicus, who together represent the 640 shop-floor workers, claiming the management would be in breach of contract if it went ahead with the plan.

The unions were also concerned for the future of other conditions at the plant and last month 60% of members who took part in a ballot voted in favour of industrial action if bosses refused to protect existing working hours and conditions.

Union officials have now accepted defeat in their battle to protect the night workers, but have threatened strikes if the management attempts to change further working hours.

The first 14 of the night workers have now agreed to change their working hours and the remaining seven will have to do the same by June 30 or risk losing their jobs.

The factory's TGWU representative, Kevin Browning, said: “We have had to back down as far as the night workers are concerned and we are very disappointed about that, but we were up against all sorts of things that we couldn't overcome.

“This is the first time the company has gone down the road of serving 90-day notices to change conditions and we don't feel it was necessary.

“We feel the situation could have been dealt with in other ways, such as natural wastage, including retirements and people leaving.”

But the unions have been successful in achieving a support package for the workers who have transferred to day shifts, which will see their wages gradually reduced by 12% over 15 months.

Mr Browning added: “We are still continuing talks with the management over the other existing working conditions and we can't rule out industrial action if the guarantees are not forthcoming.”

Management at Delphi Automotive Systems declined to comment yesterday.

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