Boss offers pay rise to non-union members as strike enters ninth week
Westex Carpet workers are entering their ninth week of strike action with a vow that bosses will not win a ‘battle of wills’ with them.
The 75 low-paid Unite members started an indefinite strike at two of the West Yorkshire carpet manufacturer’s sites on 20 November last year.
The strikes at the firm’s Cleckheaton and Dewsbury sites began after the company tabled a pay offer of 2.25% that would have resulted in the workers’ bonus pay – which ensures their wages meet the national minimum – being incorporated into their hourly rate.
After Unite members rejected the offer, Westex Carpets responded by taking the offer off the table and implementing a pay freeze until at least April 2020. The company cited financial difficulties for the pay freeze, despite making pre-tax profits of £5.44 million during 2018/19 and £5.16 million in 2017/18.
Unite said that Westex Carpets had also attempted to ‘divide the workforce’ by providing its non-union staff with an automatic 2.25% rise that will not apply to Unite members unless they stand down.
At talks mediated by the conciliation service Acas last week, the company again tabled the same offer and it was again rejected.
Unite regional officer Kelvin Mawer said: “Our members’ basic pay is lower than the national minimum wage (NMW) and only goes above it because of the bonus they receive. The NMW goes from £8.21 to £8.72 in April, so the offer of a consolidated bonus would only take the hourly rate to £8.73 – meaning there will be no change in their overall earnings.
“Our members have been on the picket line for nine weeks despite the cold and the rain and the added financial pressure Christmas brings. They’ve seen right through Westex’s attempts to divide the workforce and are absolutely determined to win a fair pay deal for the hard work they carry out.
“Westex Carpets’ bosses won’t win this battle of wills nor can they plead poverty when the firm’s last financial report recorded a £5 million profit. These strikes will continue to go on indefinitely until Westex stops penny pinching and offers its staff a reasonable wage.
“Instead of damaging the firm’s reputation and bottom line, we urge Westex to return to the negotiating table and resolve this dispute sensibly.”
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