Official Picket at Hanson Brickworks Kings Dyke Whittlesey. Picture: Steve Williams. While USi supports a project to organise workers in brick kilns in India, brick kiln workers in the UK need our support and solidarity too. Yesterday, GMB members bega …

Walton Pantland
Official Picket at Hanson Brickworks Kings Dyke Whittlesey. Picture: Steve Williams.

Official Picket at Hanson Brickworks Kings Dyke Whittlesey. Picture: Steve Williams.

While USi supports a project to organise workers in brick kilns in India, brick kiln workers in the UK need our support and solidarity too.

Yesterday, GMB members began 6 weeks continuous strike action at Hanson Brick in Peterborough over a cut in the number of days holiday.

GMB members employed as Environmental Kiln Operatives (Burners) at Hanson Brick in Whittlesey in Peterborough have taken strike action because their employer has reneged on an agreement for the Burners to maintain a 33 day annual holiday entitlement which is part of the agreed work pattern for these essential workers. There are 200 employees in this brick works.

Rachelle Wilkins, GMB Regional Organiser, said “The holiday entitlement for the Burners was agreed between the company and trade unions years ago. This group of workers have to monitor the gas fuelled kilns continuously over a 24 hour period. They work 12 hour shifts and cover all bank holidays. As part of a reorganisation of shift patterns and terms & conditions in 2011, it was agreed on two separate occasions with management that the Burners would not reduce down to 29 days holiday with the rest of the workforce but would keep their 33 days in recognition of the unique role they undertake at the plant.

Management have behaved in an appalling and extremely unprofessional manner by reneging on a deal for the Burners. We have tried to resolve this by every avenue possible with local management, including negotiations with ACAS which took place in Whittlesey on Thursday 4th April. This group now feel they have no other option but to take strike action from Monday 8th April.

We have serious concerns that Hanson local management are considering using untrained workers to operate the kilns, workers who have not performed the role for a considerable length of time and have not had any refresher training. The consequences if these workers were pressured by the company to perform this role and not recognizing if something had gone wrong could be disastrous for the plant, the environment and the local community.

We are urging the company to take their commitment to the Environment Agency, their health & safety obligations as an employer to their employees and the local community seriously.

GMB and Unite are still willing to sit down and discuss a sensible and realistic solution to the Burners holiday issue by recommencing discussions at any time.”

For more information, see this article in the Ely Standard.


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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