'We're fighting back'

Striking Drax canteen workers escalate dispute on International Women’s Day

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On International Women’s Day today (March 8), striking Drax canteen workers, who are predominantly female, have escalated their industrial dispute over fair pay.

The workers, who have been striking since early December in a dispute with their employer Baxter Storey and Drax’s management, announced today that they have voted to extend their strike action mandate.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The women at Drax are an inspiration and demonstrate the exact qualities that International Women’s Day celebrates: Empowered women effecting change to better their own lives and those of others. They have the full backing of Unite behind them as they strike for a fair pay rise.”

Unite rep at the Drax canteen, Diane Power added, “On International Women’s Day, we remember women who stood up against the status quo and created meaningful change. Today is particularly important for those of us who are striking at Drax because we are doing just that in our own workplace.

“Our employer Baxter Storey and Drax are both wealthy powerful companies who appear not to be taking us seriously. At Drax, operatives – who are mostly men – earn an average of around £60,000 a year – whilst the women in Drax’s canteen earn an average of around £19,000 a year.

“Despite this massive gap in pay, and their enormous profits, Baxter Storey and Drax have dismissed our calls for a fair pay rise. What they didn’t count on was that we know that a woman’s place is in her union. Our message on International Women’s Day is: We are fighting back, and we will win.”

Baxter Storey’s latest financial figures show it had a turnover of £449 million in 2022 and brought in operating profits of £25 million. The company also has net assets of £201 million. Meanwhile, in 2023 Drax made an operating profit of £908 million and profit before tax of £796 million.

The workers, who are members of Unite are paid the rate set by the Real Living Wage Foundation. Baxter Storey does not implement the official rate until six months after it has been announced by the foundation, leaving workers on poverty wages for half the year.

Fresh strike dates will be announced in the coming days.

By Ryan Fletcher