Workers at Tyneside Safety Glass staged a very successful week-long strike at the firm’s two factories in the Team Valley trading estate in Gateshead last week.
The action began on Monday 20 September and workers plan a second seven-day strike from Monday of next week.
The workers, members of the Unite union, struck after management failed to offer them any pay rise this year.
Their pay has been frozen since 2008—despite the company having a full order book and the factories working flat out.
Bosses plead poverty yet clearly have made enough profit to take on four new supervisors.
Basic pay for workers is not much higher than the minimum wage and a further pay freeze, at a time when the cost of living is rising, will cut their pay in real terms.
But it’s not only the pay freeze that has angered workers.
Management has also introduced new shift patterns and cut the sick pay scheme.
As one striker told Socialist Worker, “They’ve treated us like muck.”
The shift changes will add an extra ten hours to the working week for some workers.
It seems there is a bigger battle underlying the strike.
Unite says that bosses have told union reps at the company that they “intend to break the union on site”.
Bill Green, Unite regional officer, said, “We have offered a range of options to the company, but these were all rejected out of hand.
“After the intervention of Acas it became clear that this dispute is not just about pay.
“Unite understands the company’s personnel manager told our representative ‘that the company had beaten the union before and would beat it again’.”
Unite assistant general secretary, Tony Burke, added, “We fully support our members.
“Telling workers that they intend to ‘beat the union’ is harking back to the 1920s.”
Mark Robertson, a Unite steward at the company, reports that the response to the strike has been excellent and a number of workers have joined the union in the last week.
The workers returned to work this week and imposed an overtime ban.
If no offer is forthcoming from management, they will be out on strike again from Monday.
Support outside the plant is strong. Gateshead Unison branch has voted to give £200 to the strike fund.
Messages of support and donations to Bill Green c/o Unite Offices, John Dobson Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8TW