Unite members at Paragon CC’s Nottingham site are preparing a ballot on industrial action over a disagreement on pay and conditions.
In a statement sent to PrintWeek yesterday (30 August), Unite said: “Talks have broken down at Paragon and Unite is now moving forward with an industrial action ballot which will take place this autumn.” Unite has declined to comment further at this time.
The Unite chapel at the Nottingham site comprises 120 members of staff out of a workforce of 270 and was engaged in meetings last week chaired by Nottingham branch managing director Vincent Gidley over the company’s financial strategy.
According to chief executive Jeremy Walters, a number of benefits were offered to all Paragon CC workers in the group’s latest proposals, but Unite representatives objected to the absence of an offer to increase pay.
He said: “This has come as a surprise to us as we were not of the belief that talks had broken down. In our meeting last week, we presented how we were looking to introduce a death-in-service benefit, as well as increasing our pension contributions and the apprenticeship levy, but Unite’s focus seems to be on pay.
“Unite members will vote on whether to do nothing, work to rule or take strike action – and I urge that Unite listens to what its membership wants. I would say that I see the Unite members at our Notts site as our people first and union members second, and I want to find a solution within our plans that will benefit all Paragon employees equally.
“To our customers, I would say that Notts still has 150 non-Unite members of staff to maintain their services in the event of industrial action, and a number of other sites we can utilise across the country. We do not anticipate any potential action affecting our output.”
Walters said that Unite pointed to Paragon’s recent string of acquisitions, including snapping up St Ives’ print management division in June, as indication that the group was diverting money that could pay for salary increases. However, Walters said the acquisitions were funded by Paragon’s recent bond issue, rather than cash.
Paragon CC Nottingham has long served its parent’s retail sector clients, which have suffered of late – the administration of Toys ‘R’ Us and the uncertain future of Homebase were referenced by Walters. He added that Paragon CC must look to the “long term” in order to preserve the wellbeing of its business amid uncertain market conditions.
He insisted that his team’s plans focused on “what we can pay our staff in two or three years, as opposed to what we can offer them now”. Walters and his team will be visiting every Paragon CC site in the coming weeks to lay out its financial plans as they stand.
Walters said he hoped that Paragon CC and Unite would reach a solution on the current dispute by the time this process is complete.