It’s perhaps the most famous horserace of all with six hundred million people watching live on TV – the world stops for the Grand National.
This year however punters in Northern Ireland are set to boycott local bookies SP Graham on the big race day at Aintree tomorrow (9 April) in support of staff.
Unite members working for the bookmaker are staging a one day strike on Grand National Day over pay.
Davy McMurray, Unite officer for staff in SP Graham’s said colleagues had “been overwhelmed by the support offered by their customers for their fight against poverty wages.
“Completed petitions by punters promising to boycott the employer have been coming in to our offices all week ahead of the planned strike,” he said.
The high profile walkout on Saturday – traditionally the biggest event of the year for bookies – will be the third day of industrial action taken by staff in their bid to win a Living Wage.
McMurray said that the fact workers were prepared to strike on the day of the four-mile showpiece demonstrated a “continued determination” to win an enhanced and just pay deal.
He added: “SP Graham Ltd is a highly successful bookmaker. It can well afford to pay their workers decently.
“Management has sought to downplay the impact of strike action but we are aware that they are seeking to undermine the strike through employing strike-breaking ‘scab’ labour.
“We are putting SP Graham on-notice that Unite will bring forward a requisite complaint to the Employment Agency Inspectorate; we will use the full rigours of the law to defend our members’ rights.
“The current pay offer leaves workers just nine pence an hour above the bare legal minimum and was overwhelmingly rejected by the workforce.
“It’s time management got serious about sharing their business’ success with their workforce”, McMurray added.
Pickets will be set up at outlets in support of the industrial action.
Asked about the walkout, Unite member and SP Graham employee, Natasha Lawless, said “this pay offer does nothing to address the poverty pay on which out staff are expected to live.
“We also face poor staff security, for example single man shops, some shops have no bandit security screens.
“SP Graham is a highly profitable company with a significant turnover, they can well afford to pay their workers a living wage and improve staff security,” she said.
Chris Deery, General manager for SP Graham, said suggested the company’s outlets would open for business but the strike action would hit a number of shops, particularly in Belfast.