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Fresh talks called over Barbour strikes

Barbour has scheduled talks for January 9 with mediation service Acas next week in a bid to resolve a month-long strike by some of its warehouse employees.

The dispute centres on proposed changes to staff contracts. Trade union Unite claims Barbour offered the team at its Gateshead distribution warehouse a new contract requiring them to work until 11pm from March 2015 without unsocial pay, on what it referred to as a “sign or be sacked” basis.

But Barbour told Drapers that, under the new terms, staff will only work until 10:30pm and a shuttle bus to local running public transport will be provided. It also said it offered a pay rise of 10% which is 17% above the national average for warehouse shift workers.

Brenda Readman-Bell, finance and IT director at Barbour, who is leading the discussions, said: “Barbour needs to introduce the changes to the shift system because we are at capacity in the warehouse both in terms of meeting health and safety obligations and in delivering efficiency. Without making these necessary changes to the shift patterns we are imperilling the prosperity of our business and this has major implications for the livelihood of our entire workforce. 

“We are extremely keen to bring this to a positive conclusion as evidenced in all the concessions we have agreed and for that reason we have asked for a further meeting with Acas on Monday as well as meeting our two local MPs Stephen Hepburn and Emma Lewell-Buck”.

An initial strike took place on December 17 to 23, but subsequent talks held in an attempt to avoid any further action failed, leading the union to declare a second round of industrial action. More than 70 Barbour employees are taking part in the latest walkout, which began on January 5.

Barbour has three warehouses employing 180 people. It pointed out that, of the 160 people employed in the two warehouses taking part in the action, it is thought around 65 are union members. Of those, 33 voted for strike action.

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