Over 1,000 workers at the Pirelli tyre factory in Carlisle have been asked to take unpaid leave.
The factory has been idle since workers discovered a crack in the main boiler at the Carlisle site two weeks ago.
Since then they have been asked to stay away while engineers carried out cleaning and made vital safety checks on the boiler, as well as the one at the firm’s sister plant in Burton, where the factory is also at a standstill.
Production at both plants resumed last Friday.
But there has been concern among some workers after their bosses wrote to them, setting out a series of options for covering the cost of the eight-day closure.
A union agreement gives workers the option of taking 75 percent of their basic pay. But the letter tells them that Pirelli has now agreed to give them three options:
- Accounting for their time off work by using up paid holiday entitlement
- Taking the last week’s time off as unpaid leave
- or continuing to be paid but repaying the firm by putting in the requisite extra hours by the end of next year.
The letter says that despite the collective agreement to give workers “lay-off” pay at 75 percent of basic rates, minus overtime and shift premium, “…it must be stressed that the options listed, in agreement with the trade unions, are in the best-long term interests of the factory. Please let your administrator know which option you have chosen.”
Alan McGuckin, regional industrial organiser for the Unite union said the union had not agreed to support the alternative options in the letter.
He said: “We acknowledge that there are alternatives people can be given, but we don’t have recommendations. What we do have is an agreement covering 75 percent of minimum earnings levels in exceptional circumstances like this. Workers are entitled to what is in the agreement.”
One worker said it was unfair that workers should lose out. “This isn’t our fault,” he said. Another said, “People are worried this is a smokescreen for more job cuts.”
The closure came a few weeks after it emerged that bosses want to shed 60 manufacturing posts at the plant.