Striking crane workers set to protest outside Sunderland home games

The Liebherr plant in Sunderland.
The Liebherr plant in Sunderland.

Striking crane workers at a Wearside plant are protesting outside Sunderland AFC home games.

Unite members who work at Liebherr at Deptford on the banks of the River Wear protested outside the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night and will again on Saturday as part of their ongoing pay dispute.

Unite Union Regional Officer Mark Sanderson (right) with strikers and protesters outside of The Stadium of Light . Picture by FRANK REID

Unite Union Regional Officer Mark Sanderson (right) with strikers and protesters outside of The Stadium of Light . Picture by FRANK REID

Those taking action say they are ‘shining a light’ on the dispute over an “inadequate” pay offer.

They were present as Sunderland played Stoke City under-21s in the Football League Trophy this week and say the protest will be repeated at Saturday’s game against Fleetwood Town.

The company’s original pay increase offer was 3%, a £150 lump sum and an extra day off over the Christmas period for the year starting January 2018.

The most recent offer is a 3.2% increase with Monday, December 24, off with pay as an additional holiday – or, alternatively, 3.3% per cent.

Unite Union Regional Officer Mark Sanderson outside of The Stadium of Light . Picture by FRANK REID

Unite Union Regional Officer Mark Sanderson outside of The Stadium of Light . Picture by FRANK REID

The union have also raised concerns about the presence of some company staff at picket lines, something which the company have said is to ensure that staff enter and leave work without any conflicts arising.

Unite, the country’s largest union, represents 30 skilled crane assemblers who have been taking days of strike action since early August.

Unite regional officer Mark Sanderson said: “The company has refused to enter into meaningful talks.

“Our members are very determined to continue the industrial action with 11 more days of strike action planned into October – the next strike day covers September 6/7.

“The Sunderland crane operation is part of the global Liebherr Group which recently boasted the highest turnover in the group’s history – a total of almost €10billion, so the company can well afford to make a fair offer to our members.

“Our members will be shining a light on the Liebherr pay dispute at the Sunderland home game tonight and Saturday by staging a protest with the banner and leaflets.”

Unite is coordinating the industrial action with the GMB union which also has members at the Deptford Terrace site.

On its website, the global Liebherr Group boasts the highest turnover in the group’s history which stretches back to 1949 – a total of €9,845million.

A spokeswoman for Liebherr said: “The company have company representatives at the picket line to ensure that all employees that have decided to work can enter and leave the site without any problems and ensuring that no conflicts between the parties arise.

“Furthermore, it has to put into light that Liebherr Sunderland’s contribution to the group’s turnover has been just 0.6% and that a rising in the turnover does not necessarily mean also a rising in profit especially in a sensible environment as the maritime industry sector is.

“Liebherr Sunderland Works Ltd believes to have made a fair offer of originally 3% and a £150 one-off payment and an additional paid holiday on Christmas Eve for 2018 or the revised offer of 3.2% and an additional paid holiday on Christmas Eve for 2018 or alternatively 3.3 %.

“This offer is higher than the average pay deals in the North East of 2.5% and is above CPI inflation of 2.5% in July.

“However, the management is open for any further discussions with the Unions to resolve the dispute.”