Talks between the union and group management previously came to a head in August over pay and conditions when Unite announced it would go forward with a ballot on industrial action to take place in the autumn.
According to Unite, Paragon CC management had initially offered staff no pay rise for the year starting November 2018, although this was improved to an offer of 1% on 1 November. However, despite the new offer, 78% of Unite members at the Sutton-in-Ashfield site have voted for strike action, which could take place before Christmas.
Unite regional officer Larry McGlinchey said: “Unite is preparing the notice to be served on the employer outlining strike action at the company in the run-up to Christmas, following the insulting lack of a pay offer originally. Dates will be announced later this week.
“Our members would be prepared to accept a pay offer below the retail price index (RPI) for inflation currently running at 3.3%, but they are not going to accept nothing or 1%.”
Unite representatives urged Paragon CC management to meet with them for “meaningful pay talks” to come to a resolution.
While Unite estimates that the Nottingham site employs around 260 members of staff, half being members of the union, Paragon CC chief executive Jeremy Walters said Nottingham employs nearer 300 people of which around 100 are Unite members.
According to Walters, the 78% of voters in favour of a strike equates to around 78 members of staff in total.
According to an anonymous source, when the ballot result was announced, staff were warned that the plant could be shut down and its work migrated to other Paragon CC bases across the UK and Europe if strike action were to go ahead.
However, Walters stated to PrintWeek that this would “absolutely not” happen.
“I have worked to build up the Nottingham site for 14 years, I am committed,” he said. “We have to recognise the union and its collective bargaining rights, but I view Paragon CC as one business and we have offered all 1,900 employees across the group this 1% increase.
“Giving this increase is equivalent to approximately £750,000 investment and, looking at the headwinds and cost increases in the market, it is what we believe we can sustain. We have 1,822 Paragon CC staff who are happy with what is happening and 222 people in Nottingham who will keep the site running if it comes to a strike.
“From my perspective, Paragon CC and the Nottingham site will continue with business as usual and it is with Unite now to write to us and say what is going to happen.”
Walters referred to other facets of his offer to staff, including death-in-service benefit, sick pay support and contributions to the apprenticeship levy as factors on top of the issue of a pay increase. He said 156 Nottingham employees had now signed up for the death-in-service benefit but lamented “no acknowledgement” of this in Unite’s statement.