Business

Local Dale Farm workers vote in favour of industrial action over pay dispute

Maintenance workers across three Dale Farm factories in the north at Cookstown, Ballymena and Cullybackey have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action following a ballot
Gareth McKeown

MAINTENANCE workers at dairy cooperative Dale Farm have voted in favour of industrial action over a pay dispute.

Maintenance workers across three Dale Farm factories in the north at Cookstown, Ballymena and Cullybackey have voted overwhelmingly in favour of action following a ballot. A total of 75 per cent voted in favour of strike action, while 80 per cent are for industrial action short of strike.

There are 20 people maintenance workers employed across the three plants, with roughly 15 of those in favour of strike action. 

Trade union Unite representatives have invited Dale Farm bosses to last ditch negotiations, including through mediation of Labour Relations Agency

Liam Gallagher, speaking for the union’s membership at Dale Farm, called on management to engage in meaningful negotiations to resolve the dispute.

“While Unite is genuine about the need to avoid strike action, which remains a last resort for the union, management should be under no illusions that if we are left with no alternative Unite will be robust in pursuit of our members’ demands, "Mr Gallagher said.

“Dale Farm bosses have been compelled under law to offer the bare minimum increase to production workers’ wages but their refusal to extend this same increment to maintenance workers threatens to leave these skilled workers watching their pay fall ever closer to the legal minimum," Mr Gallagher added.

Dale Farm said staff members were offered an "above average" pay increase earlier this year.

“While the number of employees represented by Unite at Dale Farm is approximately 1.5 per cent of our total workforce, Dale Farm values its relationship with all unions representing our employees and works closely with them at all times on issues that may impact upon staff," a company statement said.

“These employees were offered an above average pay increase in April 2018. We have been in liaison with Unite and have not at any stage refused to discuss queries around pay increases or the concerns of the employees involved. We continue to work with Unite to resolve this matter as soon as possible.”

Headquartered in Belfast, with premises across Britain, Dale Farm is the largest UK farmer-owned dairy cooperative and owns the Dale Farm, Dromona, Spelga, Fivemiletown Cheese, Loseley, Rowan Glen and Mullins Ice Cream brands.

Earlier this year the cooperative agreed a lucrative contract to supply cheese to retail giant Lidl. The deal, which represents the single biggest contract awarded by Lidl to a Northern Ireland agri-food firm, will see Dale Farm cheese stocked in 8,000 stores across 22 countries.

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