Barbour could struggle to make deliveries to a number of large UK stockists next week if a planned walkout by its warehouse staff goes ahead, the union Unite has warned.
Four-week industrial action is scheduled to start on January 5 involving around 70 of its 130 employees in Gateshead, northeast England, over new contracts which include the requirement to work until 11pm without payments for unsocial hours.
Unite claims workers are being given a “sign or be sacked ultimatum.” But Barbour has defended the move, saying the changes are necessary to meet customer demand and said it is offering “substantial” pay rises.
The action may result in the British clothing brand, famous for its waxed jackets, missing out on the New Year sales period in department stores such as Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and John Lewis if a deal cannot be struck between the union and the 120-year-old company.
Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown said: “Many of the workers struggling to get by on less than the living wage are the sole bread winner and have family or caring responsibilities.
“For a company that prides itself on ‘family values’ to seek to rail road through cuts and unsocial changes to their contracts is hypocrisy of the highest order.
“The company should not underestimate the resolve of the workforce nor the impact that four weeks of strike action will have on supplies.”
It follows a six-day disruption to its workforce prior to Christmas for the same issue. Bosses were later accused of “Scrooge-like behaviour” by its staff and Unite for threatening to ban strikers from the company’s Christmas party.
Barbour was unavailable for comment about the latest planned action. However, group finance and IT director Brenda Readman-Bell previously said: “The introduction of shift patterns will enable us to extend the warehouse working hours in order to satisfy customer demand and to continue to deliver the high standard and quality of service that Barbour is renowned for.
“We have been in consultation with the union since May 2014 and we feel we have done everything possible to work with the union and our employees to alleviate their concerns.”
J Barbour and Sons Ltd employs around 600 people in northeast England and posted total sales of £152m last year, accounting for a profit of £21.5m.
A separate base located in South Shields will not be affected by the strike.