Boning hall workers' pay protest

A protest outside a meat plant last week, concerning a new pay deal for boning hall workers, looks set to escalate after union bosses said strike action could not be ruled out.

The Transport & General Workers Union (T&G) claimed Dawn Cardington, a member of the Dawn Group, which supplies supermarkets with red meat products, had imposed a new pay structure, which meant many workers were being forced to accept a pay cut of up to 20%.

Last week, around 130 workers signed a petition to urge the company to enter meaningful negotiations with T&G, and the site's union representatives have said that although they were told of the cuts, there had not been proper consultation and negotiation.

Now, following a protest out-side the plant, T&G said the company has still not agreed to negotiate. A spokesperson for the union said: "During the course of last week, many of the workers signed up to those pay cuts, but many of them have said they felt under pressure to do so. So we've lodged 60 grievances with the company on those workers' behalf and T&G will be meeting its solicitors this week."

If Dawn Cardington does not agree to meet union representatives, a strike "cannot be ruled out", said the T&G spokesperson. "What we would really emphasise is that we believe the best thing is to get round a table and agree a resolution. The workers don't necessarily want a protracted legal situation, they want the issue sorted out."

Mark Allan, general manager of Dawn Cardington, refused to comment on the prospect of a strike and reiterated a previous statement made by the company, which said the new pay system is based on skills. The new pay deal will be at least the national minimum wage and will include production-related bonuses, additional skill bonuses, and the introduction of a 'job and finish' system of work, said the statement, which added: "The majority of the boning hall staff will either earn more or be paid comparable earnings to their exis-ting levels of pay."

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