Members of the Unite union at Photronics UK’s site in Trafford Park, Manchester, have won a ballot for union recognition, overturning the company’s derecognition of the union in late 2006.
The company, which is a US-based multinational providing parts for semiconductor manufacturers, had taken advantage of the fact that only about a third of the workforce were in the union.
It argued that dealing with the union was a waste of time and set up a tame “employee forum” where it could discuss things on its own terms.
The company tried to get staff on side with a pay rise that, though below inflation, was better than expected.
Meanwhile it blocked proposals from the union for recognition limited to those areas, such as manufacturing and engineering, with higher membership, claiming this would be “unfair”.
Union members started meeting in the local pub, as they were not allowed to meet on site. They gradually recruited more people into the union.
Unite used the legal process for winning union recognition to force a ballot of the whole workforce on whether they wanted union recognition, despite opposition from the company.
The law is very weak on giving unions access to workers to campaign around the ballot, so management were able to prevent much campaigning on site. This forced members to be more imaginative.
One rigged up Christmas lights to their car spelling out “Vote Yes”.
The law says that not only do you need a majority of those who vote, but you have to get at least 40 percent of those eligible to vote – a high hurdle for a postal ballot.
But the result was a win.