Staff at Huntingdon company to strike for four days over pay cut dispute

VIP Polymers

VIP Polymers - Credit: Archant

Workers at a Huntingdon factory have announced they will take four days of industrial action in a continued battle over pay cuts.

About 50 GMB members will walk out of VIP Polymers, in Windover Road, at 6am tomorrow (Wednesday) in the first strike in the series. They will return to work 24 hours later.

The machine operators, who are demonstrating against a 10 per cent pay cut and cuts in their terms and condition of employment, will also strike at the same time for the next three Wednesdays - November 13, 20 and 27.

They have previously held industrial action on June 4 and 26 this year.

A proposed new pay structure was finally rejected by the union on October 1, which has led to further strikes.

Alan Costello, GMB organiser, said, “The lack of progress in this dispute is entirely down to the company. As the dispute goes into its seventh month GMB remain determined not to be bullied into having cuts imposed on them by VIP Polymers.

“Unfortunately further strike days and an overtime ban is required as the company are still refusing to negotiate about this 10 per cent cut in pay. A pay cut is simply not acceptable to members.

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“GMB Members are digging in for a long haul on this as there still seems no prospects of an early resolution of this dispute despite previous action.”

In April, following a six-month consultation, bosses told employees to either take 10 per cent pay cut or face losing their jobs.

John Millar, VIP Polymers managing director, said that of the 77 machine operators on the firm’s payroll, all but two had signed up to the pay reduction.

Mr Millar added the reduction in factory pay is essential to remain competitive and to secure the ongoing viability of the business, which, like its competitors, has suffered from challenging market conditions.

He said: “We maintain that the cut in flat rate pay is essential to maintain and improve our competitive position so that we can sustain employment prospects. But since the dispute began in the summer, we have sought to accommodate the union’s point of view, initially offering a goodwill payment to affected employees and a bonus scheme designed so that they can improve their earnings through increased productivity.

“In a bid to get a settlement, we even relaxed the performance scheme targets for the first three months to build trust all round. Again, to show goodwill, we introduced the incentive scheme on October 7 even though we did not have the union’s agreement.”

Mr Millar added: “Many of our competitors have gone out of business in the last few years since the global financial crisis. Many of our costs such energy charges are rising faster than ever. Our proposed wage reduction was and is intended to help us to get through this difficult period, so we can secure jobs before we move forward again as the economic backdrop improves.

“Given competitiveness in labour costs, we have a quality focused business and a sound financial platform to build the business for the future in the long-term interests of employees, customers and suppliers.

“Unfortunately the proposed further strike could be disruptive to hard-won customer relationships with potentially damaging consequences. It could test the patience of customers expecting schedules to be met and prejudice job prospects at the company.”