GMB members at Hartlepool's Expanded Metal Company walk out in first strike action for over 100 years

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Workers at a Hartlepool firm have gone on strike for the first time in over a century in a dispute with bosses over pay.

Employees at Expanded Metal Company on the town’s Longhill Industrial estate who are part of the GMB union have downed tools and are manning a picket line.

They are unhappy with a 5.7% basic salary increase offer and one off £225 cost of living payment with inflation currently at 9.2%.

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Union members described the offer as “insulting” although the company says the union’s expectations are unrealistic and unaffordable.

GMB picket line in Greatham Street, Hartlepool.Picture by FRANK REIDGMB picket line in Greatham Street, Hartlepool.Picture by FRANK REID
GMB picket line in Greatham Street, Hartlepool.Picture by FRANK REID

GMB regional organiser Paul Clark said from the picket line in Greatham Street: “This is the first time in over 100 years that staff at Expanded Metal Company have come out on strike.

“The current cost of living is so high. We have got workers having to use food banks.

"They’re living hand to mouth and can’t afford to be out here but are to show solidarity and support and to make the message to the company for a better pay deal.”

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Mr Clark said in October members rejected a 5% salary increase offer and improving the sickness scheme from 80% pay which it was reduced to during the pandemic back to 100%.

GMB regional organiser Paul Clark. Picture by FRANK REIDGMB regional organiser Paul Clark. Picture by FRANK REID
GMB regional organiser Paul Clark. Picture by FRANK REID

Members were then balloted and rejected an improved 5.7% basic salary increase, £225 one off payment and 100% sickness scheme, last Friday.

"It doesn’t come close to the expectations of the workforce,” said Mr Clark.

The Expanded Metal Company is a leading developer and manufacturer of expanded metal mesh products for a range of sectors from construction to security.

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The strike action began on Tuesday, January 24, and GMB members are set to strike for three days a week for four weeks.

Mr Clark said they remain open to talks to resolve the dispute.

The company said in a statement: “The Expanded Metal Company Limited is disappointed that an agreement with the GMB Union has not been reached.

“Despite The Expanded Metal Company bringing forward negotiations by three months, in order to help support our employees through the cost-of living crisis, the GMB's expectations for its members were unrealistic and unaffordable.

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“We offer competitive pay, which is benchmarked against local manufacturing businesses. The offer we made, which was rejected by GMB members, remains in-line with the regional average.

“We understand the importance of fair and reasonable compensation for our employees and had already reached an agreement with our staff in October 2022.

“We will continue dialogue with GMB union representatives in an effort to find a solution ahead of industrial action planned from January 24, 2023.

“We remain committed to working with GMB union representatives and their members to avoid industrial action and minimise disruption to our employees and customers.

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“We will continue to strive for a fair and equitable solution for all parties involved.”

Workers are the company are the latest in a series of public and private sectors to take industrial action over pay including rail, postal, nursing, ambulance staff, driving instructors.

Thousands of teachers are also set to walk out in industrial action in February and March.

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