Management at a Rotherham industrial electronics company has been accused of riding roughshod over collective union agreements and imposing a pay deal on individual workers.
This dispute has flared up just 16 months after 532 workers voted ‘yes’ to collective bargaining in a ballot run by the conciliation service, Acas.
Unite, the largest union in the country, said that management at Kostal UK Ltd was adopting ‘a divide-and-rule’ policy and trying to pick off individual employees with threats of the sack, if they don’t accept a self-funding pay and conditions deal.
Unite, which represents 159 workers at the Goldthorpe industrial estate, starts balloting from today (Thursday 11 February) for strike action and/or industrial action short of a strike, following two consultative ballots which had overwhelmingly rejected the proposed deal. The ballot closes on Thursday 25 February.
Unite regional officer Simon Coop said: “This is a glaring example of a management riding roughshod over collective bargaining agreements signed 16 months ago and adopting a divide-and-rule policy by threatening workers to accept the deal, otherwise they will be given notice that their contracts will be terminated.
“This is completely unacceptable behaviour, reminiscent of Victorian times, that has no place in modern industrial relations.
“Our members resent this bullying and intimidation and, as a result, they are being balloted for industrial action. In the meantime, I have written to the global CEO of Kostal, Andreas Kostal to step in and help local management to see sense and put an end to this dispute.”
The deal for this pay year, starting in January, was four per cent, plus a bonus payment of £270 for production staff and two per cent for staff.
However, Unite said that the deal was designed to be self-funding, as this would be accompanied with Sunday working being reduced from double pay to one-and-half times pay; new starts would be on statutory sick pay and not the more generous provisions currently enjoyed by the workforce; and two 15 minutes breaks consolidated into one 30 minute break in the interests of ‘efficiency’.
While welcoming the four per cent pay offer, Unite had offered to be part of a working party with management to consider the more contentious issues of the package – this was rejected by the company.
Simon Coop added: “What we have now is a situation where more than 60 workers have not received the pay deal or bonus, while some others have accepted under duress. We have a two-tier workforce when it comes to pay for doing the same job.
“The threat of the sack now hangs over those workers who have not done the management’s bidding. This is an intolerable situation and our members are very angry.”
Kostal makes accessories for the automotive industry, such as switches and control panels. Its customers include Jaguar Land Rover. The total workforce in Rotherham is 650.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.