STRIKES at GE Steam Power’s 125-year-old Rugby factory could worsen, as the union organising them accused the company of ‘undermining’ negotiations by using an outside consultancy firm to ‘force through cutbacks’.
Unite the union will re-ballot more than 75 of its members – the majority of the factory’s workforce – to extend strike action over pay, after the initial 12 days of strikes spread over six weeks came to an end this week.
Unite says the strike – the first at the Newbold Road site in 45 years – is over GE Steam Power’s ‘refusal to negotiate over flexible working payments and the expectation that workers will take on new roles without extra pay’.
The union said GE Steam had handed the running of the factory to Shape Associates so the consultancy firm could ‘force through cutbacks’ prior to the site’s sale to French energy giant EDF.
Unite said Shape has ‘completely disregarded’ the agreement Unite has with GE Steam to negotiate on behalf of its members at the site.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite will not stand for the efforts by GE Steam and Shape Associates to attack our members’ wages prior to the factory’s sale to EDF.
“Our members are also furious at Shape Associates’ disgraceful attempt to split the workforce by disregarding the site’s agreement with Unite. This is totally counterproductive, making Unite and our members even more determined to fight for an acceptable deal.”
Unite regional officer Zoe Mayou added: “Since GE Steam Power bought the factory 11 years ago, they have tried over and over again to undermine our members’ pay and benefits despite the company’s operations being extremely lucrative.
“GE has hired Shape Associates to run the factory and to squeeze whatever else they can before the sale to EDF. While taking on GE’s dirty work, Shape has ignored Unite’s recognition agreement, a move that has backfired and only strengthened our members’ resolve.”
However, a GE spokesperson denied any involvement from a third party.
They said: “We can confirm that we have not entered into any agreement with third parties including Shape Associations with respect to the union activities in Rugby or running the Rugby site.
“GE Steam Power Management in Rugby remains committed to having a constructive social dialogue with the aim of reaching a resolution.”
The site, which was founded in 1897, manufactures industrial plant steam turbine equipment, some of which is used on the UK’s nuclear submarines.
As well as halting production, the strikes have also disrupted the site’s repair and refurbishment service for steam rotating equipment.