Rugby GE Steam strikes could worsen

GE Steam slammed for using outside consultants to ‘undermine’ union

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The first strikes in 45 years at Rugby’s 120-year-old GE Steam turbine factory could worsen as the company uses outside consultancy firm Shape Associates to ‘undermine’ union organisation.

Unite is preparing to re-ballot more than 75 of its members at the factory to extend strike action over attacks on pay. The initial round of strike action began on 17 April and is due to end on 2 May, with the next strike on 29 April.

The union said GE Steam has given over the responsibility of running the factory to Shape Associates so the consultancy firm can force through cutbacks prior to the site’s sale to EDF.

Unite said Shape has ‘completely disregarded’ the recognition agreement Unite has with GE Steam to negotiate on behalf of its members at the site.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Unite will not stand for the efforts by GE Steam and Shape Associates to attack our members’ wages prior to the factory’s sale to EDF.

“Our members are also furious at Shape Associates disgraceful attempt to split the workforce by disregarding the site’s agreement with Unite. This is totally counterproductive, making Unite and our members even more determined to fight for an acceptable deal.”

The dispute is over GE Steam Power and Shape’s refusal to negotiate over flexible working payments and the expectation that workers will take on new roles without extra pay.

The Rugby site, which was founded in 1897, manufactures industrial plant steam turbine equipment, including for use on the UK’s nuclear submarines.

As well as halting production, the strikes disrupt the site’s repair and refurbishment service for steam rotating equipment.

Unite regional officer Zoe Mayou added, “Since GE Steam Power bought the factory 11 years ago, they have tried over and over again to undermine our members’ pay and benefits despite the company’s operations being extremely lucrative.

“GE has hired Shape Associates to run the factory and to squeeze whatever else they can before the sale to EDF. While taking on GE’s dirty work, Shape has ignored Unite’s recognition agreement, a move that has backfired and only strengthened our members’ resolve.”

By Ryan Fletcher

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