THE gloves came off yesterday at luxury fashion brand Barbour as the company’s workers launched a whopping four weeks of continuous strike action over shift patterns.
Staff represented by Unite at the firm’s Gateshead warehouse are preparing to sacrifice an entire month’s pay after managers refused to back down after walkouts last month.
Management’s most recent proposal for new working hours would require the early shift to start at 6.30am and the late shift to finish at 11pm, and was rejected by workers.
Reps say the first buses arrive at a bus stop some distance from the site at 6.30am and the last leave at 10.30pm, meaning workers could be left stranded or forced to take taxis.
And a proposed compromise which would see half-hour periods sliced off the beginning and end of shift patterns would leave workers forced to work unsocial hours elsewhere for no additional pay.
Unite regional officer Fazia Hussein-Brown told the Star: “The members have a ultimatum to sign a new contract by January 30 or be sacked.
“There’s a real sense of urgency and members have made a bold, brave decision to take part in strike action. January is not only the hardest, coldest month of the year but after Christmas many members are left with costs and bills to pay.
“They are striking for the whole month of January to make a stand and to show that they do not accept these detrimental changes to their terms and conditions.”
Unite said that management had made misleading statements to the media in an attempt to make workers’ demands sound unreasonable.
The workers were visited on their picket line yesterday by Jarrow Labour MP Stephen Hepburn, who told the BBC that they had been treated “despicably” by bosses.
And columnist Janet Street-Porter weighed in with an article in the Independent on Sunday.
“If you are the sole breadwinner, arranging childcare for these unsocial hours costs money,” she wrote. “How can Barbour claim to be family friendly?”
In a statement issued to the BBC, a company spokesman said management had “done everything possible to work with the union and our employees to alleviate their concerns.”