Today's top news stories: M25 workers in strike vote

UniteLive brings you our top news stories of the day

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It’s only Monday (February 19) and it’s already been a busy week for Unite. Below is a selection of today’s top news stories:

Balfour Beatty workers angry over profitable firm’s below inflation pay offer

Around 150 M25 maintenance workers employed by Balfour Beatty are being balloted for strike action over pay, Unite said today.

The workers, who are responsible for the maintenance of the entire M25, are angry at Balfour Beatty’s pay offer of 3.4 per cent. With the real rate of inflation, RPI, at 4.9 per cent this is a real terms pay cut. Increasing tensions, is the fact that the workers also received a below inflation pay rise last year.

Balfour Beatty’s latest financial report said the company brought in revenues of £4.5 billion during the first half of 2023, with underlying profits increasing by 12 per cent to £95 million.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Balfour Beatty is an immensely profitable company that can afford to put forward an offer that reflects rising living costs. Its M25 workers have Unite’s total backing in demanding a fair pay rise.”

The workers will begin balloting this week and the vote will close on March 12, with industrial action expected soon after.

Unite regional officer Phil Silkstone added, “Balfour Beatty can stop this dispute escalating and causing disruption to the smooth running of the M25 by tabling an acceptable offer. It has more than enough profits to do that.”

Govt’s fire and rehire code of conduct a ‘bad joke’

Commenting on the government’s new code of conduct on fire and rehire, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Fire and rehire is an abhorrent practice used by the worst of the worst to attack their own workers. It should obviously be against the law, with serious penalties attached.

“The idea that a ‘code of conduct’ is going to stop employers like P&O from doing this is just a bad joke.

“But let me make it clear, any employers considering using ‘fire and rehire’ against my members should know that they will be taking on the whole of Unite with all of our resources and industrial power.”

Strike action at Newtownards factory to severely impact Lakeland dairies profits

Unite members working at LE Pritchitt & Co Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lakeland Dairies, which operates the company’s Global Logistics Centre in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, will take a first week of strike action beginning this Wednesday (February 21) in a mounting pay dispute.

Negotiations ended last week without agreement after management refused to provide an increase which maintained a £1 an hour pay differential with the minimum wage for fully trained production operators.

There are five pay bands for production workers at the factory and the lowest entry grade is currently paid just 10 pence above the minimum wage with fully-trained up production operators paid £11.42 an hour. With the minimum wage set to increase to £11.44 from April 2024, workers are determined to defend a pay differential paid to experienced operators who are required to be trained on operating three separate pieces of machinery. The workers rejected an 8.2 percent offer which failed to deliver this objective.

Speaking ahead of the strike, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Lakeland dairies is a hugely successful business which has recorded record profits. That success is built on the commitment and skills of their production workers. It is completely unacceptable that the forthcoming minimum wage increase will surpass all existing pay grades.

“The workforce has the full support of Unite in their fight for a cost of living pay increase that reflects their skills and responsibilities.”

If you missed our coverage of Unite’s Port Talbot demonstration to save steel jobs on Saturday (February 17), you can read our feature here, and view a Unite Eye photo gallery here.

Compiled by Hajera Blagg