140 Polyflor workers in Whitefield, Greater Manchester, have been locked out and taken strike action to win a pay rise matching inflation.
The workers, members of the GMB union, had asked for 10% in June but management prevaricated and offered 8% with half a dozen strings attached, mainly in the form of an attack on sick pay. The union gave notice of strike action, but before the strike started workers were told all shifts were suspended and they were effectively locked out. For two and a half weeks, where there was no pay or strike pay, workers held a series of rallies ‘on the hill’ overlooking the management offices, with support from other trade unionists from Bury, Bolton and Manchester.
Production resumed on 19 September and strike action began that week, with workers striking mid-shift, clocking off and back on two hours later. Because of no improved offer being made, the workers are beginning an all-out strike from today.
This is a company which has made massive profits in recent years, especially during the pandemic, as they won lucrative contracts for non-slip flooring tiles to cover Covid testing and vaccination centres. Last year, workers were locked out and had to strike for a decent settlement which was soon achieved. This year the management, clearly smarting from the defeat last year, are trying to get their own back.
But there is a build up of bitterness among the workforce. Shift patterns have been changed eight or nine times in the last five years, leaving workers inconvenienced, there has been a cancellation of the employee share scheme, the re-location of the warehouse facility to nearby Royton where workers are paid less as well as a 60% speed up in production for which workers have seen no benefit. Liz Truss may complain about the UK’s ‘low productivity’ but it doesn’t apply to Polyflor!
John Waddington, GMB union rep said “the two and a half week lockout without any pay represented a loss of about 5% of our annual wages, in that context the 8% increase offered is more like a 3% offer!”
This could yet turn into a very serious battle. If a settlement is reached workers will expect full back pay for the period of dilly-dallying by management.
Solidarity with the workers. Victory to the union at Polyflor!
Want to donate to support the strikers? Details for bank transfers below:
Account name: GMB
Sort code: 60-83-01
Account number: 20407036
Please make sure that you put the reference “B33” on it so that the GMB know it is for Polyflor.
Please also email email@example.com letting him know about any solidarity you can provide. Partly this is so that he can trace the money, but it is also so that he can give you an official message of thanks.