Workers win court action for strike

More than 200 workers at Norwich double glazing company could be set to strike over a pay dispute after their employer lost a last- ditch High Court battle to stop the action.

More than 200 workers at Norwich double glazing company could be set to strike over a pay dispute after their employer lost a last- ditch High Court battle to stop the action.

Staff at Anglian Windows voted in favour of industrial action in March, in a disagreement over wages of some of the workers at the company's sites on the city's Airport Industrial Estate.

But Anglian claimed that the ballot had been carried out incorrectly and sought a High Court order banning the GMB union from holding the strike.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Teare dismissed the company's injunction bid and ruled it was “more likely than not” the union would be able to establish at a full trial the “immunity from suit” which applies to lawful action.

Anglian, a leading supplier of replacement windows, double glazing, conserv-atories, kitchens and doors, said that, in line with union laws, where members entitled to vote do not have the same workplace, separate ballots are required for each workplace.

It argued that, since the company's Norwich operation consists of five distinct premises on the business park, separate votes should have been conducted in order to give the proposed industrial action the “support of a ballot”.

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They also complained that insufficient information was given about the work categories of each of the groups of employees entitled to vote, meaning they did not have enough information to plan a response to the strike.

But the GMB, which represents 269 of the company's employees, argued that the pay of workers at the centre of the dispute, those who worked at a premises known as Unit 13, including line workers, fitters and electricians, affected every “average paid” employee's pay.

Also, the information about work categories they gave - all employees in Unit 13 were described as “production workers” - was as good as they could do at the time, they said.

Mr Justice Teare said he was not, at the preliminary hearing, able to resolve factual disputes over the way in which the ballot was held.

Refusing Anglian's application for an injunction, the judge said: “The company submits that if the strike goes ahead it is likely to suffer financial loss and its customers will suffer delay in having products delivered to them.”

But he added: “When I take into account that it is more likely than not that the union will succeed in establishing its immunity from suit, then the damage which might be suffered by the company must carry less weight.

“These considerations are sufficient to persuade me it is right to refuse the company's application for an injunction, but, in any event, it is to be observed that there was a very substantial majority in favour of strike action.

“If a further ballot, or ballots, were to take place in accordance with the wishes of the company, it is more likely than not that there would still be a majority in favour of a strike, and so the losses feared by the company would still be suffered without the possibility of redress.”

Ivan Mercer, GMB organiser, said that on Monday he would issue the company with notice that industrial action will take place, with a view to holding a series of one-day strikes on dates yet to be finalised.

Anglian Windows declined to comment until the case concludes.