Socialist Worker

Strike at Anglian Windows

Issue No. 1000

Nearly 200 GMB members who work at Anglian Windows in Norwich are preparing to strike. The first one-day strike will be from 6am on Thursday 11 May. A further strike will take place on 14 May.

GMB union members will be on the picket line outside the Airport Industrial Estate site in Norwich with placards and banners during all the strike days.

The dispute centers around a change in the demand for wood effect (foil) windows as opposed to the ordinary white windows. GMB members at Anglian work on a piece rate system which means that individual rates are paid for individual components in the making of double glazed window units.

These rates are amalgamated to come up with an overall hourly rate.

The workers want the rate for making wood effect windows to be increased in line with the company’s own work study report which will in turn increase the average weekly pay for the majority of the workforce.

Ivan Mercer, GMB organiser for Norwich said, “It seems that even though this dispute has been running for over three years, and that GMB members have been incredibly patient, the company is determined to force them to strike. GMB is available to attend talks at any time to avoid the need for strike action.”

The workers had to succeed in the high court to have a legal strike.

Anglian claimed that the ballot had been carried out incorrectly and sought a High Court order banning the strike. But high court judge Mr Justice Teare dismissed the company's injunction bid and ruled it was “more likely than not” the union would be able to establish at a full trial the “immunity from suit” which applies to lawful action.

Anglian said that, in line with anti-union laws, where members entitled to vote do not have the same workplace, separate ballots are required for each workplace.

It argued that, since the company's Norwich operation consists of five distinct premises on the business park, separate votes should have been conducted in order to give the proposed industrial action the “support of a ballot”.

They also complained that insufficient information was given about the work categories of each of the groups of employees entitled to vote, meaning they did not have enough information to plan a response to the strike.

But the GMB argued that the pay of workers at the centre of the dispute, those who worked at a premises known as Unit 13, including line workers, fitters and electricians, affected every “average paid” employee's pay. Mr Justice Teare said he was not, at the preliminary hearing, able to resolve factual disputes over the way in which the ballot was held.

Refusing Anglian's application for an injunction, the judge said: “The company submits that if the strike goes ahead it is likely to suffer financial loss and its customers will suffer delay in having products delivered to them.”

But he added, “When I take into account that it is more likely than not that the union will succeed in establishing its immunity from suit, then the damage which might be suffered by the company must carry less weight.

“These considerations are sufficient to persuade me it is right to refuse the company's application for an injunction, but, in any event, it is to be observed that there was a very substantial majority in favour of strike action.

“If a further ballot, or ballots, were to take place in accordance with the wishes of the company, it is more likely than not that there would still be a majority in favour of a strike, and so the losses feared by the company would still be suffered without the possibility of redress.”


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Thu 3 May 2007, 11:10 BST
Issue No. 1000
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