Saturday, 17 September 2011

Organising in the Face of Adversity

Spotlight on Polestar Unite GPM Chapel

Polestar Sheffield is part of the Polestar Print Group and is the largest site operating 24/7.

The GPM Chapel is very structured & pro active with its own website and lay recruitment/organising activists who have built the membership base at the Greenfield site since it opened 6 years ago.  

Chapel FoC (Convenor) is Ged Dempsey together with Paul Shippin (Dep FoC). 

They have built solidarity and support with other workers in struggle including Wyndham Impact at Basingstoke. 

Cost Cutting July 2011

The Company submitted proposals to cut costs in July 2011.  Chapel Committee, considered the detailed cost cutting proposals from firm. 
The proposals & 3 options involved no pay rise together with the latest scam of outsourcing of some departments, potential job losses, increased hours, changes in shifts, scrapping sick pay scheme & eroding Terms & conditions etc
They were all blatantly divisive & totally unacceptable. 

The Company sent a letter to the entire workforce stating the 3 options, at a time when the firm said their energy costs & raw materials were rising.
The letter was seen as hostile & offensive by the workforce. 
At a time, when the workforce were already suffering massive cost of living rises who are now expected to bear the brunt of these proposed savage cuts.                                                                                           

It was agreed that all company proposals be rejected & the matter be put in procedure directly to National level of the union. It was stated if there was an attempt to impose without settlement through agreed procedures; the workforce would be balloted for industrial action.
After rejecting the Company’s proposals it was agreed to put a counter proposal of bringing the pay rise anniversary date forward to October 1st and a very substantial pay increase to offset huge cost of living rises that we are ALL incurring.

They emphatically rejected the Companies request for them to surrender terms and conditions.
They were NOT willing to accept any of the options/proposals including; 
Outsourcing, slashing of our Terms & Conditions (T+Cs), pay-cuts, increased hours etc. 
Stating Sheffield was a busy, successful and profitable site with very lean manning levels.  The Union had been given a clear mandate. 
The FoC produced newsletters, updates, recruitment materials.  The already high membership base has almost hit 100% because of fighting back.
The Chapel were determined to stand together and fight the slash & burn actions by the Company.
This united the workforce and led to a recruitment drive that saw a rise of 25% in union density with 95% of the workers now belong to a Trade Union. 

Polestar is the largest print Group in the UK producing leading magazines & supplements for newspapers.
The Company were taken over in early 2011 by Sun Capital, a USA venture capitalist/hedge fund firm – owned by 2 former Lehman Brother bigshots.
They currently own 260 other firms in USA, Canada, Europe & UK

One Union, Stronger together, Every Member Counts


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