Hoover staff in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales have staged a 1-day strike in protest of a pay freeze at the white goods factory.
About 60 workers from the Amicus union picketed the Welsh factory on April 21, 2004, with more action promised unless the deadlock between union and management can be resolved.
The factory, which is ultimately owned by Italian company Candy, employs around 380 staff making washing machines and tumble dryers.
Amicus's acting regional secretary for Wales, Norman Southwell, said extra pension contributions had effectively meant that staff had seen no real increase in wages for 3 years.
He said there was also a deeper concern among workers about the future of the factory and a lack of investment in the site.
"The situation is that the pay offer this year is zero," he said. "There was a 3-percent pay increase last year and the year before, but that increase was swallowed up by an increase in members' pension contributions. It means that unless we resolve this, this year, there is no real increase for 3 years."
The company has offered a number of profit-related schemes but Mr. Southwell dismissed these offers.
"How can they expect us to accept that when they say they have not made a profit for two years?" he asked. "The mood of the staff is that they are frustrated. They are saying yes it is an issue of pay, but it is not just about pay—we want the company to invest in the plant.
"The plant is critical to the Merthyr economy," he continued. "We need to see more investment in machinery and manufacturing techniques and in the people who work there—it is a skilled and committed workforce."
No one at Hoover Merthyr was available for comment yesterday, but the company issued the following statement: "Although Hoover Candy UK has experienced heavy trading losses in recent years, we have managed to improve employee earnings by a combination of base pay increases, and introducing and improving productivity and quality bonuses.
"For current employees we have maintained a very competitive final salary pension scheme," the prepared statement's message continued. "This year the group has introduced a quarterly "profit- related" bonus to all Hoover Candy UK employees, after seriously considering all alternative pay options, including a 2004 pay freeze."
It added, "Hoover Candy UK has to face manufacturing over-capacity in the domestic appliance market. It must also face the trend of UK manufacturing migrating off-shore and new competitors who manufacture in low-cost regions of the world.
"The company is disappointed that its Merthyr manufacturing employees have decided to take industrial action. The result of this action is that both employees and the company will suffer. Discussions are continuing to try and avert further planned actions."
But while discussions are continuing, the threat of a further srike is very real.
"Today has been a 1-day action and I think this will sharpen the focus for both ourselves and the company," Mr. Southwell said. "We are saying that we are prepared to sit down and negotiate with them at any time as long as the company has something to say to us. It is up to them to come back to us." (The Western Mail, Wales)
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