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Unite to ballot Morrisons members on strike action over pay dispute

Photo by Eyleen Gomez.

Unite the Union will ballot its members at Morrisons for strike action, after pay negotiations collapsed amid accusations the employer had threatened to end its union recognition and collective bargaining agreement.

Unite said its members had unanimously rejected a 2.4% pay rise against the backdrop of record inflation but that Morrisons planned had refused a further increase and was now implementing it despite the union’s efforts to negotiate.

The 2.4% increase is the equivalent of 20p an hour for workers, most of whom, according to Unite, currently earn £8.27 an hour.

Unite said it fell “well short” of the union’s pay claim.

The pay award is similar to that announced recently in the company’s UK stores, although Morrisons’ employees there earn a minimum of £10.20 an hour.

According to Unite, at a meeting last Thursday Morrisons told the union that if it balloted members for industrial action, the employer “would not only subject striking workers to detriments on pension and benefits” but would suspend facilities for shop stewards and would give notice on the longstanding collective agreement between the union and employer, “therefore derecognising the union”.

Unite and Morrisons have enjoyed good industrial relations over many years and the company did not confirm the union’s interpretation of its position on recognition, which is at odds with its past approach.

But there was no doubt on Friday that Unite was adopting a firm stance in response to what it viewed as “a negotiating gun to the head”.

“The union has sought to negotiate with Morrisons meaningfully on pay against a backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis where members are experiencing spiralling costs, yet the employer has refused to budge from their 20p an hour offer, which is unacceptable to our members,” said Unite’s Christian Duo.

“Their negotiating stance at our latest meeting - either accept the imposition of the pay award or face the termination of the collective agreement - is an attack on our members, our union and on collective bargaining in Gibraltar.”

“There are no circumstances in which we would accept the imposition of the pay award.”

“The union will be balloting members for industrial action.”

“We will be resisting the de-recognition of Unite and will be seeking to mobilise the wider union in support of our Morrisons membership.”

“It is clear now that Morrisons have deliberately been spoiling for this fight to provide the opportunity to terminate our long-standing and until recently positively applied collective agreement.”

“If our members vote for and take industrial action, the union will support them financially in terms of loss of earnings, utilising Europe’s largest strike fund. Members have the full support of the union in their pay dispute.”

“Our members in Morrisons were amongst many workers in Gibraltar that were in the front-line during the Covid pandemic, yet the employer now believes that they are worth a measly 20p an hour against record inflation figures of 8.9% IRP (July 2022).”

Unite does not represent all of the Morrisons workforce in Gibraltar but will ballot its members for strike action as from Monday.

On Friday, Morrisons confirmed it would implement the pay rise rejected by the union.

"Our pay award of 2.4%, will be backdated to 3rd October 2022,” a spokesman for Morrisons said in response to the union’s announcement.

“We are pleased to remain the highest paying retailer in Gibraltar.”

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