Luton workers given 10 minutes to sign away rights

GMM Luton shop stewards at a Unite fringe meeting at the TUC
GMM Luton shop stewards at a Unite fringe meeting at the TUC

WORKERS attending the last night shift at the GM van plant in Luton on Thursday reacted with anger when they were given individual letters to sign agreeing to changes in their contract of employment.

Each worker was given just ten minutes to read and sign their acceptance for a whole host of changes including not just their transfer from nights onto a double day shift from next Monday, but also the right of GM to force them to work early, late or core shift as required by the company, which would only commit to giving a ‘reasonable’ period of notice.

In the past, union agreements have stipulated that a ninety-day notification period was required before changes to the shift pattern could be implemented.

Speaking to News Line, one night shift worker said: ‘On my section of 30 only two actually signed this letter, the rest threw them in the bin in disgust and it was the same on every other section. How can the company present you with a legal sounding document and give you just ten minutes to read and sign it!

‘What really has upset people is that the company originally wanted to renege on the agreement that says we should get 90 days premium shift payment after nights ended. They couldn’t get away with that so they now say that the 90 days starts from when they first announced the closure of nights, meaning the shift payment will stop on November 17.

‘Most shocking of all is the fact that under this agreement we can be pushed from one shift to another with a “reasonable” notice; what is reasonable will be determined by the management. They just want a completely flexible workforce that has no rights and will do what it’s told for less pay.

‘The final insult was that according to this letter all this had been agreed with our union, Unite, and not a single official from the union was present last night to either explain the situation or represent all the fears and worries that we have.

‘It’s disgusting; the union have not even spoken to us about these changes let alone asked us to agree to them. They never hold meetings – they seem to operate behind our backs and agree to everything that management wants.’

Meanwhile, workers at the Vauxhall car plant in Ellesmere Port voted yesterday to accept a deal agreed between union leaders and the proposed new owner, Magna. Unite leaders agreed to a two-year pay freeze, longer working hours, pension and other benefit cuts, as well as 600 voluntary redundancies.

About 2,100 workers attended the vote at a mass meeting at the factory yesterday and Unite convenor John Featherstone claimed members ‘overwhelmingly’ backed the deal.