Tuesday, 3.05pm: Managers of a strike-threatened Peterborough brick company have warned that plans are in place to ensure production is not interrupted.
Bosses of Hanson Building Products, in Whittlesey, have spoken out after union leaders warned that industrial action could take place over 13 burners in dispute about their holiday entitlement.
The burners are vital to the brickworks as they ensure the working of the kilns used to heat the bricks.
Union leaders with Unite say managers are seeking plan to reduce the number of holidays for the burners from 25 to 21-days-a-year.
They warn the strike action is expected to start on April 8.
Hanson Building Products employs about 200 workers at Peterborough Road and last year the company transformed the working conditions of everyone at the site, after lengthy negotiations produced a settlement on 24/7 working.
Unite regional officer Tony Ellingford said: “The major issue is the holiday entitlement where 13 burners had a holiday allocation based on the hours they worked which was 25 12-hour shifts, plus eight bank holidays.
“Now managers have removed four shifts from the burners’ holiday entitlement.
“We have tried to discuss this and believe we put forward a potential solution, but the company was not interested. We have also suggested involving the conciliation service, Acas but management has rejected this avenue to resolve the dispute, as well.”
Unite said that management had promised that the burners’ holidays would not be affected.
Mr Ellingford said: “The burners are clearly key to the smooth operation of the site and if the kilns are not working, it will quickly stop work at the site.”
A spokesman for the company said: “It would be difficult for us if the burners went on strike.
He added: “When we closed our Saxon works at Whittlesey a year ago and consolidated brick production at Kings Dyke we took the opportunity to introduce harmonised terms and conditions of employment for all departments in the works.
“The new terms, which remain generous and are in line with industry standards, were agreed and accepted by the majority of the workforce who also accepted a one-off payment of £1,500 to compensate for any reduction in benefits.
“It is disappointing that, having accepted the compensation payment, a small section of the workforce has now changed their minds.
“We hope industrial action can be avoided but have a contingency plan in place to ensure the factory continues to run and production is not disrupted.”