Thatcham-based Forterra staff strike in pay dispute

Thatcham-based Forterra staff strike in pay dispute
Image credit: GMB Southern

Members of the trade union GMB who work at heavy building materials supplier Forterra’s Thatcham site near Newbury are undertaking strike action today (Tuesday 19 March 2019) in a dispute over pay.

The industrial action, which commenced at 6am, will run until 6am on 20 March 2019. This will be followed with a further strike later this week, running from 6am on 21 March to 6am on 22 March 2019.

In December 2018, 100% of GMB members who work at Forterra voted in favour of strike action; this was based on an 80% turnout rate.

The dispute relates to pay disparity between Forterra’s operating locations, according to GMB. As well as working out of Thatcham, Forterra also operates in Birmingham.

Asia Allison, regional organiser at GMB, said: “GMB has been asking for pay parity with no detriment to other terms and conditions. Since the ballot in December 2018, we have made some progress in negotiations and although we welcome the management’s proposal of pay parity on the base rate with a sister site in another region, [it should not be] at the cost of compromising overtime rates.

“We met last Monday with the management in good faith with the approach to conclude this pay dispute in the most amicable way. GMB believe that we have compromised since the original counter proposal to meet Forterra management half way. Unfortunately, we have made no progress since the last meeting, therefore, we have been left with no other option than to proceed with the planned industrial action this week.

“GMB members were underpaid and [disadvantaged] for a number of years and it is disgusting that the management believe it’s a fair deal, to finally give them the pay they deserve and should have [had] in the first place, but cut the overtime rates at the same time. GMB members are now calling on directors to address this matter appropriately and bring pay in line with the other site without any compromise to existing terms and conditions.”

A spokesperson at Forterra added: “Forterra is currently in negotiations with the GMB regarding the pay of 58 employees at Forterra’s manufacturing plant in Newbury. These negotiations have been running since June 2018.

“On 21 January 2019, Forterra agreed with a GMB request to align pay rates at Newbury with a sister site in Birmingham. However, GMB has chosen to increase its demands and is now proposing industrial action to further improve this offer.

“Forterra is disappointed by GMB’s stance and believes that this unnecessary action can be avoided. Site management are working on mitigation plans to ensure any industrial action does not impact customer service.”

Around 90% of Forterra’s shop floor employees at Newbury are GMB members; approximately 60 staff in total work on the shop floor at this operating location.