Workers were initially offered a total 8% pay increase over a period of three years, with a 2% rise in the first year and a 3% rise in each of the the second and third years. It was rejected on the grounds that the first year’s rise would be below inflation, a recurring point of contention for staff over the years, according to Unite.
A reported turnout of around 90% of the site’s 79 Unite members saw a 77.5% vote in favour of strike action. An announcement yesterday (14 August) said action will begin with 48 hours of strikes on Tuesday 28 August.
From then, two days of strikes will be carried out on Monday and Tuesday each week for six weeks, with a continuous overtime ban across the period.
Unite regional officer Darren Barton said: “The planned strike action will inevitably create delays for bank customers and for the HMRC, however this dispute is entirely of the management’s own making. Our members have endured years of below inflation pay increases which means that they have been becoming worse off year-on-year.
“Management needs to acknowledge this fact and table an improved increase. Rather than sit down with Unite and undertake further negotiations the company imposed the pay offer which has enflamed tensions.
“Unite remains fully prepared to sit down and resolve this issue before strike action begins but the ball is now firmly in management’s court.”
According to Unite, management at Communisis refused to return to the negotiation table after the deal was rejected, which led to the vote in favour of strike action.
However, Communisis customer experience managing director David Herridge claimed that the board was surprised by the announcement of strike action. He said it was the belief of management that negotiations were still ongoing with Unite.
“To my knowledge, we have never had any form of strike action before at Communisis, so we will do everything we can to avoid this now,” he said. “We want to keep the dialogue going to see if we can come to a constructive agreement with the union.
“Of course, Unite is trying to get the best deal for its members, but for us the pay offer was a case of not just thinking about the 79 staff in Crewe, but about what we could afford to offer to all employees across the UK and Europe that would be reasonable and fair.
“We look to treat all our colleagues across the business consistently, rather than dealing with things on a region-by-region basis, so while it is early to say at the moment, we will do anything to minimise the impact of this situation for both our staff and our clients.”
Herridge said that disaster recovery measures were in place at some of Communisis’ 10 other UK bases to make sure the Crewe premises’ clients in the banking sector were not affected by ongoing disputes.
Including the 79 Unite members, 126 people currently work at the Crewe facility. According to Herridge, the Communisis HR team is now organising talks with Unite representatives in order to continue discussions with the workers and find a resolution.