Workers employed by value fashion retailer Primark in Northern Ireland may go on strike over a two-year pay freeze being implemented by its management, it emerged today.
A pay freeze was agreed to in 2010 by Primark workers represented by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw), but strike action is now being considered following the retailer’s decision to again block any wage increases at this year’s pay round.
The 641 Usdaw members working for Primark Northern Ireland were balloted last month to ask whether they were in favour of holding a vote on industrial action and 95 per cent said yes. The vote on whether to strike will end tomorrow.
Nicola Scarborough, an Area Organiser for Usdaw, commented: “Primark has a loyal and long-serving workforce in Northern Ireland and our members are dismayed and extremely angry at the company’s attempt to impose a pay freeze for the second year running.”
“Most staff at Primark Northern Ireland currently earn just £6.84 an hour and soaring prices and government cuts to tax credits and other benefits mean they are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet.”
Throughout the discussions over pay the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) has acted as mediator between the two sides, and Usdaw claims that it still hopes to find agreement with the Primark management and that no decision has been made on what form or timing any strike would take.
Most retailers across the sector are attempting to limit expenditure and cut cost to secure their future but Usdaw argues that the recent success of Primark despite the wider economic gloom makes its policy on pay unfair.
Scarborough continued: “Our members are well aware of the tough trading conditions in retail, which is why they reluctantly agreed a pay freeze last time round, but they are equally aware that despite these difficulties, in the year to September 2011, Primark’s sales increased by 13 per cent and they made a profit of £309 million.”
“Primark should play fair and reward staff for their central role in helping the company increase its sales and make those huge profits.”