Workers at the Craigavon-based flooring manufacturer Interface Europe are set to commence continuous (all-out) strike action in a dispute over pay.
The strike follows a ballot of Unite’s more than one hundred members which delivered a majority of 88 percent for strike action on a 93 percent turnout.
Continuous strike action due to commence at 10.30pm on Sunday, June 26 with pickets on site from 6.45am on Monday, June 27.
With Unite’s membership representing almost all the full-time contracted production workers onsite, the strike is set to have a substantial impact on the company’s operations.
The industrial dispute arises after management rejected the workers’ pay claim for 11% (the current rate of retail price inflation) and instead offered a pay increase of 5.25% with an additional 2% to shift premiums for hourly employees working shifts.
This offer was overwhelmingly rejected by workers as a substantial real-terms pay cut.
In response, Unite the Union says management have unilaterally imposed their pay offer on agency workers – ignoring entirely the wider collective bargaining process
General secretary of Unite, Sharon Graham said: “Interface is yet another business proposing a pay cut for the workers while handing out lots of cash to the bosses. One of the directors has been awarded a pay-out that is forty times the basic rate earned by workers. It is obscene and Unite’s members are right to vote overwhelmingly to challenge this.
“The Interface Europe workforce can count on the continuing support of Unite in their dispute. Standing together and standing strong they will defend themselves and their families during this cost of living crisis.”
Interface Europe’s turnover fell to £49.7 million in 2020 due to the pandemic but the company remained profitable generating a pre-tax profit of £3.7 million.
The highest paid director received a total compensation package of £816k in 2020, forty times more than the £20,000 paid on average as a basic wage to workers.
Neil Moore, regional officer for Unite, challenged the company on its approach to workers: “This is a company that can well-afford to pay these workers what they are seeking, a fair pay increase.
“This dispute is not just about a pay increase it’s about being treated with respect. These workers are determined to win both through this all-out strike action.”
Eline Oudenbroek, Vice President Supply Chain, Interface EMEA said: “We have worked tirelessly over the past few months, in partnership with Unite union representatives, to understand the specific needs and concerns of our Craigavon team members.
“We believe the package offered as a part of our annual salary negotiations remains highly competitive considering the current challenging and ever-changing business conditions.
“We review and adjust our employment benefits and practices each year to ensure we remain a responsible, supportive, and attractive employer.
“Interface has proudly manufactured commercial carpet tile in Craigavon for 40 years.The team is a valued part of our global manufacturing operation, and we are committed to continuing our conversations with Unite and our colleagues to find a satisfactory resolution for us all.”