Newspaper deliveries to newsagents across the UK will be hit as staff at Menzies Distribution prepare to hold two 24-hour strikes on September 23 and 26 for the first time ever over a ‘pitiful’ pay offer.
Unite warned that commuters won’t receive their favourite read at stations, particularly in the south east and Scotland, when 300 packers, pickers and drivers go on strike.
The core of the dispute is the pay offer that was imposed from April which saw wages rise to just £7.25 an hour – only five pence above the new ‘national living wage’ of £7.20.
Double time pay and time off in lieu for seven of the eight bank holidays have been swept away and workers now just get basic pay for bank holidays.
Three months of negotiations have failed to reach agreement and, as a last resort, the union’s members will strike for 24 hours from 11pm on Friday, September 23 until 11pm on Saturday, September 24 and then for 24-hours from 7pm on Monday, September 26 until 7pm on Tuesday September 27.
There will also be a continuous overtime ban starting at just past midnight on September 23, which will dovetail with the continuous work to rule which has been in place since August 8.
Unite national officer for the graphical, paper and media sector Ian Tonks said, “For the first time ever our members working for Menzies Distribution are taking strike action – a sign of their strong rejection of the pitiful pay offer.
“The strikes will cause severe disruption to the distribution of newspapers and magazines to newsagents and railway stations, particularly in the south east and Scotland,” he added.
“The wiping out of extra pay and time off for bank holidays has caused particular anger among our members, which has been compounded by the bosses’ obsessive addiction to minimum wage pay levels.
“It is still not too late to avert this industrial action and we urge the management to get around the negotiating table and put forward a pay award that truly reflects the hard work that our members do 24/7.”
The main distribution centres include Ashford, Aylesford, Bromley-by-Bow, Greenwich, Norwich, Ipswich, Portsmouth, West Thurrock and Weybridge in England. The main sites in Scotland are at Dundee, Dunfermline, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Irvine, and Paisley.
Unite members had voted 86 per cent in favour of strike action and by 91 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.