December 6 2013 Latest news:
Monday, September 9, 2013
Production at a Norwich-based chemical company could grind to a halt as workers prepare for four days of strike action.
Briar Chemicals is expecting more than 100 people to walk out after talks with union bosses broke down over staff pay.
The GMB union said 124 people would take part in a series of 12-hour strikes after it ran out of patience in its fight to secure a “modest” wage rise for workers.
But the firm, which employs about 240 people and recently took on seven new members of staff, is still hoping to reach an agreement with the union – and said its pay offer has already been accepted by management staff.
According to its latest set of accounts, the business made pre-tax profits of £4.1m for the period ending December 2012, and turned over £14.4m.
Sunday September 15 – 6am to 6pm
Tuesday September 17 – 6am to 6pm
Thursday September 19 – 6am to 6pm
Saturday September 21 – 6am to 6pm
But it was reluctant to back a salary rise for workers because its main income stream is expected to drop over the next four years, as a result of contract conditions with its major client.
Tim Green, site manager at Briar Chemicals based on Sweet Briar Road, said: “We have been in discussion with our GMB staff members and we’re doing everything we reasonably can to achieve resolution of the dispute.
“We have addressed the union’s previous requests and believe our current offer covering the period April 2013 – March 2014, with no strings attached, is fair.”
He added: “Our aim is to remain competitive in order to attract new business and protect the long-term future of jobs on this site.”
The company tabled an offer for a one-off payment of £1,000 to all members, and a £300 bonus payment if manufacturing targets are met.
And it dropped its previous demand for new contract terms, including proposals to increase the working week from 36.25 hours a week to 37.5 hours.
It said about 70 of the staff set to strike are on salaries of more than £40,000 – a sum, it claims, is at the “top end” for that position in the UK chemical industry.
But the union has rejected the deal in favour of a pay rise in line with inflation.
Ivan Mercer, GMB organiser, said: “GMB will issue the formal notification of strike action as soon as possible to the company.
“The pay offer of a one off payment simply was not enough to satisfy the members who have been very patience waiting for a decent percentage wage rise that has not been forth coming. Their patience is at an end.”
The company was formerly known as Bayer CropScience, but changed its name to Briar Chemicals after its German parent company sold the business to the Munich-based Aurelius Group.
Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis has hailed the town’s growing significance as an energy hub after the arrival of a new offshore business bringing the promise of 100 jobs over the next three years.