Flooring firm Polyflor cancelled workers’ shifts for three weeks after they voted in favour of strike action

Photo: GMB
Workers are now on all-out strike and have been left ‘fuming’ by the firm’s recent profit and dividend announcements

Around 150 workers at a manufacturing firm are on all-out strike after bosses responded to a notification of industrial action by cancelling all shifts for three weeks.

Workers at Polyflor were locked out of the factory between 1 and 19 September without lay-off pay, leaving many struggling to make ends meet.

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The firm recorded post-tax profits of £24million last year and its parent company James Halstead PLC confirmed last week that profits had remained at a near-record high this year.

A GMB source said workers have been left “seething” at the company’s decision to pay out millions to shareholders while denying them a pay-rise that keeps pace with inflation.

NationalWorld contacted Polyflor for comment multiple times prior to publication.

Firm accused of ‘vindictive attack’ on workers

Workers at vinyl flooring manufacturer Polyflor are on all-out strike until 17 October and will be out on strike for additional days after that unless a pay-deal is agreed.

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The firm has been accused of launching a “vindictive attack” on its workforce after cancelling all shifts for almost three weeks last month in response to industrial action.

After negotiations over a pay rise failed to result in a deal, GMB workers at the site in Manchester voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action.

The workers notified bosses that they would launch industrial action by going on strike for two hours out of the working week.

However, speaking to NationalWorld, GMB rep John Waddington told NationalWorld that workers were left “furious” after being told that shifts would be cancelled for all permanent staff with just 12 hours notice.

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Although the staff are contracted to 40-hours work per week, their contracts contain a clause which allows the company to suspend this guarantee due to circumstances beyond their control.

In March 2020, this clause was activated and the guarantee has not been reinstated since.

GMB regional organiser, Stephen Boden, said: “These dedicated workers are suffering from the worst cost of living crisis in a generation, rising interest rates and a crumbling economy.

“They need help from the company, and instead they’re getting vindictive attacks.”

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Waddington said the company’s decision not to provide lay-off pay has left many ”under real financial pressure”.

“Some are really close to the edge - really precarious,” he said. “Especially those who are normally reliant on overtime. There’s pressure for mortgage payments, for new school uniforms - it’s really difficult.”

‘Everyone is fuming’

The workers are asking for a 10% pay rise to reflect the rising cost of living, but Polyflor has refused to offer more than 8%.

This is despite the company posting massive post-tax profits last year, paying £24 million up to its parent firm, James Halstead PLC, company accounts filings reveal.

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A preliminary results update up to 30 June 2022 shows that James Halstead PLC saw revenues increase almost 10% to £291.9million, while profits were down just 0.4% and shareholder dividend remained unchanged on the previous year.

In the report, the company chairman notes that ”it is likely we will temporarily suspend some production for a period,” prompting concerns among workers of further unpaid shut-downs.

One worker told NationalWorld the announcement, “is really rubbing our noses in it - shareholders will be protected, the workforce won’t”.

They told NationalWorld that the company is refusing to “meet them halfway,” and estimated that the cost of doing so would amount to around an additional £50,000 per year across the entire workforce of around 150 people.

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They said: “It’s not a huge amount. They make £24million clear profit. They tell us they can’t afford to pay us that bit more and then a few months later the accounts come out. Everyone is fuming, they feel like they’ve been lied to.”

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