For the past few weeks workers at King & Fowler, a metal treatment firm in Liverpool, have been taking strike action over pay, walking off the job on Fridays. An overtime ban is also in place, with business affected at weekends. Members of Liverpool Solidarity Federation visited the picket lines today to offer solidarity, practical support and to learn more about the dispute and we found workers in high spirits* on Friday 13th, with Scream masks in abundance.
Workers at the company haven’t had a pay rise since 2008 and the lowest paid staff receive around £6.40 an hour for what is essentially skilled labour. With the high level of inflation since 2008 and management’s refusal to contemplate a sensible offer, workers now feel that they have no choice but to take action.
This isn’t the first dispute at the company. After buying the firm, current owners John Huddlestone Engineering (JHE) derecognized the union, with Unite having to reapply for statutory recognition. JHE boasts on its website of its “highly skilled workforce of 290 employees at 2 manufacturing and 2 treatment facilities, with a sales turnover of £23.5 million”. Without this highly skilled workforce, sales turnover would be nothing, yet it pays this workforce barely more than the minimum wage.
An offer amounting to 13p per hour has been made, but only to core staff, with temporary workers excluded, and on the condition that the workforce agree to sign new terms and conditions which they haven’t even seen yet. Clearly this offer is unacceptable and has been rightly rejected.
After spending a couple of hours with the workers on the picket line, it’s clear they are determined to win this dispute. Core workers are standing with temps and refusing to allow bosses to divide a united workforce. King & Fowler should be paying them what they deserve.
* not a pun, honest