Minister to investigate factory pay dispute

Employment
relations minister Gerry Sutcliffe has promised an investigation into a dispute
at a factory employing mainly non-English speaking workers.

About
170 workers at Birmingham-based Euro Packaging have walked out of the company’s
Highgate plant after negotiations over pay, conditions and redundancies
collapsed.

The
factory workers, predominantly Urdu speakers, said they were only being paid
the minimum hourly wage of £4.50 for up to 84 hours of work a week.

Tony
Burke, deputy general secretary of the GPMU, said conditions at the plant were
"Dickensian”, and the treatment of the workers there was “utterly
appalling”.

“This
is exploitation of British citizens just because English in not their first
language, and some of them do not speak much English at all,” he said.

Shabir
Majid, managing director of the company, said many of the workers earned higher
rates for fewer hours, and the plant would have to close if it was forced to
pay higher wages. He said the plant also had to reduce its staff numbers from
170 to 100 to remain viable.

By Paul Yandall

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