WORKERS at one of South Tyneside’s longest-established firms are set to walk out in a row over new contracts.
Warehouse staff at the clothing firm J Barbour and Sons will embark on a four-week strike action from Monday.
The action is being taken by members of the Unite union who are unhappy at changes to their contracts which, they say, will see the removal of unsocial hours payments, and the requirement to work until 11pm.
The company says the new proposed shift pattern would be 7am to 3pm and 2.30pm to 10.30pm, and no one was available to comment on the industrial action.
The dispute centres on the firm’s warehouses in Wardley, Gateshead, and involves 134 of its 600 North East workers.
The three-week strike follows a six-day stoppage in the run-up to Christmas.
Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown said: “Many of the workers struggling to get by on less than the living wage and are the sole breadwinner with family or caring responsibilities.
“For a company that prides itself on ‘family values’ to seek to railroad through cuts and unsocial changes to contracts is hypocrisy of the highest order.
“The company should not underestimate the resolve of the workforce or the impact that four weeks of strike action will have on supplies.
“Barbour management need to negotiate a fair deal for its workforce.”
Barbour has been a successful family-run company for 120 years and its famous wax jackets are a favourite with showbusiness stars and the British Royal Family.
The threat of strike action has been a rarity for Barbour.
In November, 2007, industrial action was narrowly averted after machinists accepted an improved 4.1 per cent pay increase.
Speaking ahead of the last industrial action, Brenda Readman-Bell, Barbour’s group finance and IT director, said: “We are very disappointed that we have not been able to reach agreement with the union representing our employees over the introduction of the new shift patterns.
“Barbour is a North East success story. Our business has grown significantly and in a very competitive retail market place and on time deliveries to our customers are of paramount importance.
“The introduction of shift patterns will enable us to extend the warehouse working hours in order to satisfy customer demand .
“We have been in consultation with the union since May 2014 and we feel we have done everything possible to work with the union and our employees to alleviate their concerns.
“The introduction of new shift patterns
includes a substantial pay increase and standard working hours on a Monday to Friday basis.
“We are sorry that union members have decided to take this action but would like to assure all our customers that plans are already in place to minimise any disruption to the business.”