Maintenance workers across three Dale Farm sites – Cookstown, Ballymena and Cullybackey – voted 75% in favour of strike action, while 80% said they were in favour of industrial action short of a strike. It is understood that 20 members of the union work for Dale Farm.
Unite regional representative Liam Gallagher said the union was still prepared to offer last-minute negotiations with the processor, urging it to reconsider its decision to pull out of pay talks
“While Unite is genuine about the need to avoid strike action, which remains a last resort for the union, management should be under no illusions that if we are left with no alternative, Unite will be robust in pursuit of our members’ demands,” said Gallagher.
Dale Farm’s refusal
“Dale Farm bosses have been compelled under law to offer the bare minimum increase to production workers’ wages, but their refusal to extend this same increment to maintenance workers threatens to leave these skilled workers watching their pay fall ever closer to the legal minimum.”
Gallagher argued that the company could more than afford the pay rise from its maintenance staff, citing its recent contract wins.
“The latest accounts show that the group enjoyed a 12.4% increase in sales and a 16.2% profit on operating activities before tax,” he added.
“In recent months they have won a lucrative contract to supply cheddar to the Lidl chain in the UK, Europe and US. There can be no excuse for this successful company refusing to engage in mediated pay negotiations with Unite.”
A spokeswoman for Dale Farm denied claims that the business refused to liaise with the union and added: “Dale Farm values its relationship with all unions representing our employees and works closely with them at all times on issues that may impact staff.
“These employees were offered an above-average pay increase in April 2018. We have been in liaison with Unite and have not refused at any stage to discuss queries around pay increases or the concerns of the employees involved.”
The spokeswoman said the number of Dale Farm employees represented by Unite was about 1.5% of the total workforce.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, soft drinks manufacturer Britvic denied claims that it was using untrained labour to cover staff shortages caused by three days of strikes at its Norwich factory.