Members of Unite the union employed at Vista Therm, a glass manufacturer based at Silverwood in Craigavon, say they have been subject to “extreme union-busting tactics” following a one-day strike last Friday.
The Union has confirmed two further days of strike action at the company as a dispute over pay escalates.
The strike followed a unanimous (100%) ballot for industrial action, up to and including strike, which was taken in response to the company’s refusal to engage in pay negotiations.
Management claim that they no longer recognise Unite the union despite a collective bargaining agreement existing at the workplace since 2007.
Since returning to work, union members say they have been subject to an “extreme campaign of union-busting” – including the suspension of an elected workplace representative and numerous trade union members being threatened with disciplinary action.
The workforce, which is overwhelmingly Polish speaking, have reported exclusively English-language warnings being issued questioning their absence from work and management repeatedly shifting trade unionists around the factory.
Last week, Unite lodged notice of a further two days of strike action on Thursday and Friday (July 20 and 21). The union warned that the strike action was likely to escalate with a more extensive stoppage in the coming period.
Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham commented: “Instead of sitting down to resolve this dispute, the response of management to last week’s one-day strike has been to step up their union-busting campaign.
“A Unite shop steward was suspended yesterday and other Unite members have been subject to threats of disciplinary and legal action. The fact that these measures are being taken against a workforce where few have an extensive comprehension of English or knowledge of their rights is nothing short of despicable.”
She added: “Unite does not brook any such attacks on our union, our reps or our members. Management at Vista Therm need to step back from the brink or this strike and our union’s campaigning activities will escalate. These workers deserve respect: they deserve recognition for their trade union and a decent pay increase.”
Unite Regional Officer Neil Moore added: “Developments are among the worst union-busting and anti-worker activities we have witnessed anywhere in Northern Ireland in years. Not only our union, but the entire union movement, will mobilise in defence of these trade union reps and workers.
“I am calling on Philip Corrigan [Managing Director] to intervene personally and avert a further escalation of this dispute. It is simply unacceptable that trade unionists and in particular trade union representatives are subject to such tactics. In the absence of any positive response from management, we will be significantly escalating our strike in the immediate period ahead.”
To date, Vista Therm have not responded to Armagh I for comment.