Rail maintenance workers at Wabtec in Hexthorpe, Doncaster, on the site where famous railway engines including Mallard and Flying Scotsman were made, are being balloted by Unite, over plans they claim will see breaks cut and staff having to work extra hours, including at the end of their shift, for no extra pay.
The company says talks to bring in flexible working have been going on for over a year and include a ‘substantial’ pay rise.
More than 150 workers are being balloted until May 23.
The union is also unhappy with a two-year below inflation pay deal if the workers agree to the new terms and conditions.
Unite claims bosses at Amerian engineering giant Wabtec have told the workers if they do not voluntarily agree to the changes they will be fired and rehired onto the new contracts.
Unite is further concerned that pressure is being put on the workers to accept fire and rehire. In the last two weeks, members have been called into one-to-ones with management and told they have a week to say yes to the proposals.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “There is no justification for Wabtec’s disgraceful fire and rehire plans. This is a very profitable company but it is demanding that workers work longer for less or they’ll be sacked. This is an abhorrence – it is undisguised corporate greed and we will oppose it all the way.
“Our members are crystal clear that they will not accept these attacks on their terms and conditions. If they vote for strike action, Unite will be on hand with maximum support.”
Wabtec is an international manufacturer and supplier of equipment for the railway industry. The workers at its Doncaster site maintain and repair rail stock, including carriages, wheels and bogies.
Unite regional officer Harriet Eisner said: “Not only is Wabtec pressurising the workforce to accept these detrimental changes, it also wants our members to accept what is effectively a two-year pay cut. Wabtec has pushed our members to the brink with 14 months of bad faith negotiations over this issue and we have no option but to ballot for strike action.
“Wabtec needs to drop these plans and return to the negotiating table with a proper pay offer before this dispute escalates further.”
Wabtec said in a statement: “Wabtec Rail have been in talks with the local and regional trade unions for over a year to change the way we work on site, to incorporate flexible working.
"Terms and conditions offered are no less favourable, and in fact the company has offered a substantial pay rise to employees for these changes. We have now exhausted the collective bargaining process and unfortunately been unable to reach agreement with the trade unions.
"The Company is now moving to consult with our employees individually with this offer. Wabtec remain committed to following all legislative requirements, and will work hard to retain our skilled workforce and secure their future by incorporating more modern working practices to help us adapt to the changing rail market.”