Unionised employees working for value fashion retailer Primark in Northern Ireland have voted for industrial action for a second time over a proposed pay freeze.
In January representatives of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) conducted a ballot which saw 93 per cent of those Primark employees polled vote for a strike, but then decided to repeat the ballot due to fears that an administration oversight may have allowed the original decision to be legally challenged.
The results from the second poll showed 87.7 per cent of workers support industrial action, and so Usdaw will now decide on the nature and timing of any resulting strike in discussion set to take place next week.
Primark has announced that it will be imposing a pay freeze on its staff in Northern Ireland for a second year running, which Usdaw claims is unfair due to the growth in sales at the business and the significant rise in the cost of living.
Nicola Scarborough, Usdaw Area Organiser, said: “The overwhelming vote in favour of industrial action reflects the anger our members feel at the way Primark is treating its loyal and long-serving workforce and it underlines their determination to achieve a fair pay deal.
“We hope the company will now recognise this and return to the negotiating table with a meaningful pay offer.”
“With prices continuing to soar and government cuts to tax credits and other benefits really about to bite, our members simply can’t afford to accept what is effectively a pay cut for the second year running.”
Lengthy negotiations involving the Labour Relations Agency saw Usdaw members agree to a pay freeze in 2010, but under the condition that wages would rise the following year.
Primark has so far refused to offer any pay rises for 2011/12 but last month suggested it was ready to re-enter negotiation with its workers.
Sales at Primark have increased two per cent year-on-year since the turn of the year, and revenues grew 15 per cent in the first half, largely thanks to a very strong Christmas performance.
Scarborough added: “There is no question of Primark being unable to afford a decent pay rise. Sales at the company continue to increase by double digits and in the past two years Primark has made profits of £644 million.
“It’s time for Primark to recognise the exceptional contribution its staff are making to this success.”