Sunderland crane workers taking strike action tonight

The Liebherr plant in Sunderland.
The Liebherr plant in Sunderland.
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Crane workers at a Sunderland plant will be taking strike action tonight over 'inadequate' pay offer.

The workforce at the Liebherr Sunderland Works will strike from 7.59pm tonight to 11.59pm tomorrow and Unite members will stage an official picket line at the site tomorrow.

Liebherr managing director Ralph Saelzer.

Liebherr managing director Ralph Saelzer.

The action follows talks with the company yesterday which broke down after the management made a revised offer which was rejected.

Unite, the country’s largest union which represents 30 skilled crane assemblers, will be coordinating the industrial action with the GMB union which also has members at the Deptford Terrace site.

Unite regional officer Mark Sanderson said: “We are in a bizarre situation that the company made a new inadequate offer yesterday which would have left our members worse off than the original proposals that they unanimously rejected.

“There is no logic in the management’s provocative decision which now means that a total of 10 days of strike action is planned. We urge the company to enter into constructive talks before this dispute escalates further in the autumn.”

The future strikes dates are: 16/17, 20/21, 23/24, and 28/30 August. This will be followed by strikes on 3/4, 6/7, 10/11 and 13/14 September.

Unite says the company’s original offer was 3%, a £150 lump sum and an extra day off over the Christmas period for the year starting January 2018 and the new offer is 3.2% per cent with December 24 off with pay as an additional holiday – or, alternatively, 3.3%.

Mr Sanderson added: “The removal of the £150 one off lump sum means this is a worse offer and actually reduces the 2018 wage bill from the original offer.

"In recent years, our members have accepted below inflation pay awards as the management said that business was not so good, but that when things picked up, there would be higher pay rises.

"Business has now picked up and the promises made have not been honoured and that’s why we are in this strike situation.”

Liebherr managing director Ralph Saelzer previously said the unions were demanding a four per cent pay rise at a time when CPI inflation was just 2.4%.

And, while Liebherr Group as a whole was doing well, the maritime cranes operation was facing tough competition.

He said: "Our offer is fair and adequate and has been put forward in full recognition of the efforts and commitment of our employees and despite the difficult business conditions in a very competitive market for our maritime crane products.

"Furthermore the offer is well above average pay-reviews in the region and nationwide."