Socialist Worker

Barbour strikers march against new shifts

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2435

The strikers march rejecting unsocial and impractical shifts

The strikers march rejecting unsocial and impractical shifts (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Workers at Barbour Jackets marched on the company’s head office in South Shields today, Friday, as part of a fight over working hours.

The Unite union members have entered the fifth day of a four week strike aimed at stopping a change to shift patterns.

Bosses want workers to agree to a new shift rota which requires them to either start work at 7am or finish at 11pm. The new contracts also introduce a requirement to work some weekends and remove unsocial hours payments—meaning workers may sometimes have to work seven days a week.

Strikers point out that the first busses only arrive at 6.30am a considerable distance from their workplace in Gateshead. And the last bus leaves at 10.30pm.

That means workers could be forced to pay for taxis. And those with children or other caring responsibilities would find it difficult to balance those with work.

There are also concerns that older or more vulnerable workers would be unsafe leaving the factory late at night.

The strikers are calling for management to introduce a day shift for those who are unable to arrive early in the morning or leave late at night.

But bosses say workers must sign the new contracts by 30 January or face the sack.

Striker Lorraine told Socialist Worker, “They told us we either take the hours or we’re out the door.

“It seems like they just want to put people on the scrapheap.”

After marching on head office, the strikers handed a petition to management calling on company owner Margaret Barbour to meet with them personally.

Unite reps are due to meet with bosses on Monday morning to try and reach a settlement.

Strikers and their supporters held a mass meeting after the march to plan further action if management refuse to budge.

They discussed extending the duration of the picket lines and coordinating shifts for the pickets to stop all deliveries to and from the factory.

They will also hold a day of action in Gateshead and South Shields on Saturday 17 January, in which they will leaflet customers outside shops that sell Barbour jackets.

Simon Hall from the Unison union was given a round of applause after he promised support from the Unison Gateshead Local Government branch on the day of action.

He told the meeting, “I think it’s really important to get support from all the other unions, and particular the public sector unions.

“Public sector and private sector have got to stick together. It’s the solidarity that will win it.”

Unite shop steward Eric Bone agreed. He told Socialist Worker, “The level of support we’ve had has been unbelievable.

“It helps to make our strike more solid.”

Lorraine also agreed. She sees the new contracts as part of a bigger attack on workers’ conditions.

She said, “We’re not just striking for ourselves, we’re striking for everyone else and for future generations.”

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Article information

Fri 9 Jan 2015, 17:02 GMT
Issue No. 2435
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