A strike at Banbury logistics company DHL could paralyse the company if a majority vote in favour of industrial action.
The GMB union is balloting members at the company in Middleton Close, Banbury over two weeks from tomorrow (Friday).
The company says the dispute is only about pay - but the GMB insists months of discussions make it clear DHL intends to change work practices.
The union claims that DHL, a warehouse and supply chain for different businesses, wants ‘flexible working’ and restructuring of some jobs. The company says the ballot is “Unconnected to working practices and relates exclusively to… wage negotiations”.
The union believes changes would mean some staff losing overtime payments, having to work irregular shift patterns meaning planning family life and childcare would be disrupted. Others would be subjected to a ‘pay freeze’ through having their jobs redefined.
Staff rejected a 2.5 per cent pay offer in a separate ballot earlier this month.
A GMB newsletter, leaked to the Banbury Guardian, says: “This dispute is not just about the need for a decent living wage. It is also about the company’s underhanded trickery and deception to change terms and conditions.
“It is about the company choosing to ignore their own accepted policies, introducing new policies, making new rules up and introducing them without meaningful consultation.
“It’s about members (enduring) a pay freeze because their job title happens to have been changed while doing the same or more work.
“This is about the company flooding the workforce with temp workers who are doing full-time jobs while being treated like second class citizens. It is about putting the needs of workers on an equal footing with the needs of the business, customers and shareholders.”
The union said average pay rises in the private sector were 3.4 per cent this summer.
Senior GMB rep Stevie Robertson said: “Many of our members have to rely on tax credits. This state subsidy is no more than a form of corporate welfare to keep wages down and pay workers below a real living wage. A living wage of £10 per hour could provide enough to live on without extra state support. Now the government are hellbent on snatching this safety net away. A 2.5 per cent pay rise and a cut to their tax credits means a huge cut to their standard of living.”
GMB regional manager David Day, who has been involved in discussions, said flexible working would mean staff were given work schedules seven days in advance. They would no longer get overtime payments at weekends and it would be difficult to make advance arrangements for mutual domestic work patterns, family days out or childcare.
He said members could vote against a strike, for a full strike or for ‘action short of a strike’ such as working to rule and withdrawing co-operation.
Because the government’s union reforms have not yet become law, the GMB will need a majority to take action but senior officials will decide on the level of support.
A DHL spokesman said: “We are disappointed the GMB union has rejected our pay offer and is balloting its members in favour of industrial action. The offer is a straightforward pay increase and not dependent on any requirement to increase flexibility. Our pay offer is generous in the current economic climate and we urge the union to reconsider and return to the negotiating table to resolve the matter.”