STAFF at a city print works have walked out in a row over pay and conditions.
Thirty-seven members of the Unite union are on strike at Paragon UK.
Pickets were out this morning at the firm’s headquarters on the Pallion Industrial Estate.
Unite spokesman Dave Telford said the union’s members had been left with no choice with a 90-day consultation period set to end in deadlock in just two days’ time.
“The employer is proposing to dismiss all of our members and re-engage them on unfair terms,” he said.
“The consultation period ends on Thursday and there has been no resolution. We have tried throughout this period but to no avail. Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach an agreement.”
Changes to shift premiums and overnight working allowances were targeting the union’s members while other workers were unaffected.
“Our members are the only employees at the business being asked to make a financial contribution to the situation,” said Mr Telford.
“Changes to other groups have not had a financial detriment.”
He was pleased with the response from union members who were outside the plant today.
“It is a good turn-out and we will have a picket here as the day goes on, with people putting a few hours in to make sure we have a presence all day,” said Mr Telford.
The 24-hour stoppage began at 7am this morning and will be followed by another 24-hour walk-out from the beginning of the late shift at 7pm on Friday.
“We have also given them notice of the same two days next week,” said Mr Telford.
Fifty-four-year-old Steve McManus has worked at Paragon for 35 years.
“We have had a wage freeze for seven years and now they want to change our terms and conditions, changing the shift rate and reducing our redundancy pay and sick scheme,” he said.
“They are going to take everything.”
Steve, from Hylton Castle, said union members had made their own suggestions for an across-the-board one per cent wage cut at the plant, but the proposals had been rejected by management.
“This is the first time I have ever been on strike in my entire working life,” he said.
“I never thought it would come to this.
“It is shameful.”
A Paragon UK spokesman said the firm was committed to maintaining its usual service to customers during the dispute: “We can confirm that following a 90-day consultation period regarding the terms and conditions of current contracts, the union members based at our Sunderland manufacturing facility have chosen to take industrial action,” he said.
“We are still in discussion and have no further comment to make on the matter at this stage.
“While negotiations are on-going, our commitment is to meeting with the requirements of our customers to ensure that we continue to deliver the level of service they have come to know and expect from the business.”
Paragon prints a wide range of products at its Pallion plant, including brochures, labels and marketing material.
The firm also offers specialised print services such as security sensitive documents, personalisation, and data management.