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UK Glass Workers Begin Second Week of Industrial Actions

4 October, 2010

The ICEM offers continued solidarity to glass workers of Tyneside Safety Glass, members of UK affiliate Unite the Union, as they begin today, 4 October, a second week-long industrial action against an intransigent employer. Some 72 Unite members at two glass factories of the privately-held, family-owned Tyneside Glass/Suntex Glass Industries company in North-East England have been without pay increases for two years, and are now being asked to work longer hours.

The company has refused to negotiate, with the last bargaining occurring in June. Workers subsequently voted for industrial action in a strike ballot and went on the first seven-day work stoppage on 20 September. On 25 September, they met to consider further action, and buoyed by a number of union support letters, voted to issue the mandatory seven-day notice for ongoing action.

That leaves the possibility for further action throughout the autumn. The ICEM rallied to the support of Tyneside glass workers during the first walk-out, and that letter can be found here. As well, other support to glass workers in Gateshead, near Newcastle, came including hearty support from the Glass Section of the United Steelworkers (USW) union in the US through its Chairman, Tim Tuttle.

Unite North East Regional Officer, Bill Green

Unite and the USW originated Workers Uniting, a trans-Atlantic workers’ cooperative that is a registered trade union in four countries.

Tyneside Safety Glass pays just barely over the British minimum wage and used the financial crisis to deny wage increases over the past two years. Now, with salaries even closer to the minimum, the company seeks to preserve a freeze, yet also wants to change shift patterns that would see staff working another ten hours per week.

As stated in the ICEM letter, this would compromise safety on the job, particularly because the company has already made workers redundant and closed a third factory at Gateshead. “The ICEM is deeply concerned that longer work hours will result in unsafe work conditions at the glass factories of Tyneside in the North-East,” said General Secretary Manfred Warda, adding that management of late has noted a pick up in orders so restoration of lost wages could be made.

“We have experienced bullying and harassment by management, but no willingness to continue bargaining,” stated Unite Region Officer Bill Green, adding that Unite members gathering at the 25 September meeting were fortified by global trade union support for a relatively small labour dispute.

Tyneside Safety Glass and Suntex Glass Industries is a specialty glass producer that toughens and laminates glass windshields. It buys sheet glass from nearly Pilkington factories, owned by the Japanese company Asashi, and treats the glass for use in earth-moving and heavy equipment. Caterpillar, JCB, and other heavy-industry equipment makers comprise the company’s customer list.