Socialist Worker

Barbour bosses forced to back down as strikers accept improved deal

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2436

Striking Barbour workers marched on the companys headquarters last week

Striking Barbour workers marched on the company's headquarters last week (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Workers at Barbour Jackets in Gateshead have voted to end their strike after winning significant concessions from management.

The Unite union members had just entered the second week of a four-week strike over changes to shift patterns when the deal was made.

Bosses were demanding that workers sign up to shifts that could have started as early as 6:30am, finish as late as 11pm or face the sack.

But the solid strike forced Barbour bosses to back down on key issues.

Crucially, the deal has saved the jobs of those workers who were unable to start early or finish late, and so could not have signed the new contracts.

Guarantees such as job shares mean that they will be able to work hours better suited to them. This shows action gets results.

Unite shop steward Eric Bone told Socialist Worker, “Everybody was over the moon. Everything that we wanted to be addressed has been addressed.

“Extra consideration has been given to people who can’t make the shifts. We’ve managed to save vulnerable people’s jobs.”

The shifts themselves have also been revised. The new shifts will now start at 7:30am and end at 10:30pm.

And the company will pay for a minibus to take workers from the site to a nearby Metro station at the end of the late shift, dropping off along the way. This is important as the warehouse is on a remote industrial estate with poor transport links.

Improved

The strikers did not win the reinstatement of unsocial hours payments, which the new contract had removed. But there is an improved pay offer.

Taken together, the deal is a real improvement on what bosses wanted – although the new shift patterns will still make life harder.

But it was the strikers’ determination to stay out until 30 January – the deadline for signing the contracts – that forced bosses to back down on many issues.

And a large and militant protest at Barbour headquarters last Friday helped to pile on the pressure. The strikers also planned to strengthen picket lines and hold days of action in town centres.

Eric said, “There was only a certain amount of people that could have lost their jobs, but everybody came out in support of them.

“It made me think there’s some humanity out there.”

Eric explained that wide support from different groups and trade unions had helped the strikers to win.

He said, “I want to thank Socialist Worker for the support you’ve given us.

“If it wasn’t for all the support we’ve had from people we couldn’t have achieved this.”


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Article information

News
Thu 15 Jan 2015, 10:41 GMT
Issue No. 2436
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