Barbour claims unions talks are making progress

Barbour workers strike march, supported by MP's Stephen Hepburn and Emma Lewell-Buck
Barbour workers strike march, supported by MP's Stephen Hepburn and Emma Lewell-Buck

BOSSES at a South Tyneside clothing factory say progress has been made in a dispute with warehouse workers over new contracts.

Staff at J Barbour and Sons, which is based on the Simonside Industrial Estate, South Shields, started a planned four-week strike last Monday over proposed new working practices.

They claim the plan will remove unsociable hours allowance payments and see them working new shift patterns – including 6.30am starts and 11pm finishes.

The company says the new contracts would also mean “substantial” pay rises.

Yesterday, management from Barbour and the Unite trade union attended talks at mediation service ACAS.

A spokesman for the firm said: “Following constructive talks at ACAS, Barbour, progress has been made.

“Union members will be balloted on the offer tomorrow.

“The need to implement a two-shift system in the warehouses reflects the continued growth and expansion of the business.”

No one from Unite could be contacted for comment.

The strike followed eight months of talks over the new contracts.

The change of contracts was announced last May.

The company says it offered a pay rise of 10 per cent and had made special arrangements to help staff dependent on public transport by providing a minibus service to a local transport hub.

The dispute involves 134 of the firm’s 600 North East workers, all of whom are based in the firm’s warehouse in Wardley.

On Friday, more than 60 employees were joined by Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn and Sputh Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck in a march to the firm’s heaquarters, followed by a rally.

Mr Hepburn took part in a meeting with managers and presented the company with a letter on behalf of the striking workers.

He said: “Some of the workers have caring responsibilities both for elderly, sick parents and also young children, and to change their contracts midstream is not on.

“I am not here to do any negotiations. I am here on a fact-finding visit and to see if we can get the management and the union back around the table to come to a resolution.”