On the Picket Line

UK pallet workers win support in strike for higher pay

By Anne Howie
April 11, 2022

MANCHESTER, England —  “We’ve already won a lot,” Garry Walker, Unite union representative at CHEP, told the Militant during a solidarity party for pallet workers who are into their 16th week on strike. They were joined by trade unionists from across the region March 16.

The picket line party was an opportunity for strikers, to mix it up and exchange views about the next steps in their fight. “They offered us a ridiculous deal,” said Jason McGavin, the night shift union representative. “We have to hit targets every day and if you don’t they treat it as a disciplinary. It leads to injuries.”

In recent talks, bosses offered a 5% pay raise for 2021 plus 250 pounds ($330) to cover back pay, but only 4% for 2022. “We don’t want to be locked into a two-year deal with inflation still going up,” Walker said.

The offer “wouldn’t cover the rise in the cost of living,” McGavin added.

Strikers were picked up by last month’s successful strike by CHEP workers in Auckland, New Zealand, that won higher pay. Walker sent a message of support to them on behalf of the strikers here. The bosses’ refusal “to meet our requirements is frustrating,” he wrote, “but it’s not dampening our spirits in a battle we are determined to win.”

“We heard about your struggle the first day we were on strike,” the unionists in New Zealand replied. “It has been a constant source of inspiration for us.”

“The company has thrived on us not knowing what’s going on elsewhere,” Walker told this reporter. But now the strikers are building relations with workers at other CHEP sites.