WORKERS from Dairy Produce Packers on Coleraine’s Millburn Road went on strike on Friday afternoon.
The members of the union UNITE took the industrial action, they say, to urge management to renegotiate new shift patterns which were recently introduced. However, a spokesman for Kerry Foods, DPP’s parent company, say the changes were fully consulted upon with employees and their union representatives.
UNITE spokesman Brian Monaghan told the Times: “We basically don’t trust the management in DPP. They have made a lot of changes to the job descriptions and terms and conditions of our members’ contracts and have introduced a new 12 hour shift patterns.
“People are now earning a lot less than they were. People who were on job share were not offered job share under the new contracts and have had to leave their jobs because of child care difficulties.
“When signing the new contracts, our members were basically told that if they didn’t sign they would have no job. And any redundancy packages that were offered were ridiculous. Our members were also refused union representation during this time.
“We are asking the company to renegotiate with us,” he concluded.
Mr Monaghan said the union was planning further industrial action in the future.
Spokesperson for Kerry Group, Frank Hayes, told the Times: “We began last year to conduct extensive consultation regarding the introduction of changes to shift patterns.
“In the past we operated up to 23 different shift patterns. Regarding the viability and efficiency of the plant, we want to reduce that to a more efficient pattern, down to three shift patterns.
“These matters were discussed with the employees and their representatives during the year. The new patterns were introduced on September 26th and before that we fully engaged with employees and their representatives.
“Therefore, we were surprised that the union went ahead with industrial ballot which resulted in some employees taking industrial action.”
Mr Hayes went on to say that less than one third of the 40 strong workforce at the Millburn Road plant actually took part in the strike.
“The union did not engage with us before they took this action, there was no discussion yet our door has been kept open and is open for dialogue as we want to resolve these issues but we were not aware of this industrial action,” he concluded.