Just in case you thought that ‘Contract Labour’ was an issue specific to India, here is a shock! This is what I read in the latest post on the proposed strike of DHL in UK Jaguar Land Rover. “The Unite trade union, Britain’s largest, has demanded a 12.8 per cent rise over two years for the workers who receive and sort vehicle parts and bring them to the production line as part of DHL’s “just in time” operation. Unite also demands a 20.6 per cent rise over two years for drivers as part of the wage claim. DHL is offering just a 4.5 per cent pay rise in the first 12 months, starting from January this year, plus a 3 per cent inflation increase next year.
DHL insists that its employees are logistics staff and should be on separate wage scales, relevant to the logistics industry, and not be paid the same as workers directly employed by JLR. This is supported by JLR.
The Solihull plant produces the Land Rover and Range Rover vehicles. Castle Bromwich manufactures Jaguar cars and will produce the new Jaguar F model, launched this week. The Halewood plant produces the flagship Evoque model and the Freelander SUV. Strike action by the DHL workers will bring operations to a halt, particularly the critical 24 hour a day, three-shift system at the Halewood plant on Merseyside. Employees at two other companies, Staffline and NAC, are also being balloted by Unite on the wage proposal. Both Staffline and NAC are labour agency companies.
No statement on the vote has appeared on Unite’s website. In the face of large majorities in favour of action, its silence is deafening. The union has made no appeal to its members on the JLR assembly lines to support their DHL co-workers. Unite’s decision to separate the balloting of its members connected to the JLR plants, holding them on different dates, is to ensure that no coordinated industrial action takes place. Even if a strike is authorised, no action can begin until well into August.
That Unite members are employed on different pay scales in the first place is entirely the responsibility of the union. Over the last years Unite has worked intimately with management at JRL and throughout the car industry. As a result, unprecedented productivity increases, labour flexibility and divisions in the pay of workers have been pioneered.
Last year, Unite and JLR management agreed to a pay deal, retaining the divisions in pay between contract workers and permanent staff. In 2010 Unite agreed that JLR could hire agency workers at 80 per cent pay for a year, before starting as permanent staff on 90 percent pay. Commenting on the agreement the Financial Times said, “JLR’s managers have described the measures as essential to its ability to make cars competitively in the UK.”
Last year’s agreement, which took effect on November 1, was described by Unite as an investment and sourcing agreement that will guarantee the operation of all UK plants until at least 2022.