Unite strike Larne and Belfast: Caterpillar says offer ‘still on the table’

Unite the union has notified Caterpillar that its members working at Larne and Springvale in Belfast will launch a further four weeks of strike action.

By Russell Keers
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 6:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th May 2022, 9:16 am

The industrial action is set to occur after Unite members rejected the latest pay offer from the US manufacturing giant.

George Brash, Unite regional officer, said: “The blame for this dispute lies entirely at the feet of Caterpillar’s management who are refusing to sit down with Unite to resolve this dispute despite requests from the Labour Relations Agency.

“Unite has confirmed a further four weeks of strike action. We are prepared to continue this action for however long it takes for Caterpillar to listen to their employees and return to the negotiating table with a decent pay increase offer.”

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Caterpillar NI employees and Unite union members form a picket at the company's west Belfast plant on April 11. Picture: Jonathan Porter/PressEye.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s members are determined to win fair pay. They have the full support of their union until management returns with a decent pay increase offer.”

In response to the union claims, a spokesperson for Caterpillar said: “Caterpillar negotiated in good faith with Unite to reach a fair and balanced final agreement which would include a 9 per cent wage increase effective April 1, 2022. The company believes industrial action should be avoided but is committed to maintaining operations at its facilities throughout the duration of the action.

“For more than a year, Caterpillar had been in discussions with Unite to present a good and fair offer that recognises cost of living concerns while at the same time driving forward business competitiveness and agility within the workplace.”

In statement issued to the Larne Times today (Wednesday), the company added: “In February 2022, the union failed to take a revised offer out to ballot. We continued to negotiate with Unite via the Labour Relations Agency. At the conclusion of four meetings with the union, we were clear the offer on the table was final.

“In early May 2022, a Unite national representative reached out to Caterpillar, indicating our wage offer was acceptable and confirming their understanding of the business need for customer-driven overtime (CDO). The representative asked to meet for additional clarification on CDO, which Caterpillar agreed to; however, the NI local and regional union officers indicated they would only meet to renegotiate CDO. Therefore, we respectfully declined, as we genuinely believe we have exhausted all offers and further discussions will not change that position.

“Over the last three months, Caterpillar and Unite have successfully reached agreement at four other UK sites – Stockton, Sandiacre, Beeston and South Queensferry – with pay increases less than what we’re currently offering Caterpillar NI employees. Each of these agreements was approved by members.

“Our final offer is still on the table and can again be taken to vote.”

The dispute has already seen four weeks of strikes. Last month, a series of factory gate pickets started on April 11 before further action commenced on May 3.

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