The industrial dispute at the Darlington packaging plant of British corrugated board manufacturer Cepac continues to escalate. On 11 September, trade union Unite threatened to take legal action against Cepac's plans to reduce staff at the site.
The plant's workforce went on a full strike on August 14, claiming that Cepac's management had not launched "serious negotiations" with the union. At the end of August, Cepac announced plans for a realignment of the Darlington site, which also involves the loss of 61 jobs.
A realignment of the site was necessary after the downturn in business as a result of the strike, Cepac had announced at the time. The company could not stick to investment plans previously agreed for Cepac Darlington under these circumstances, either.
In a statement from 11 September, Unite warned that if Cepac went ahead with the job cuts, the union would support workers with unfair dismissal claims. If the company attempted to pay redundancy pay at a lower rate than previously, this would result in a further legal challenge, Unite added.
Cepac managing director Steve Moss reiterated that the extended strike was likely to exacerbate the loss of customers and downturn in business experienced due to the current lack of capacity, including the total loss of all print capacity over the past weeks, as a consequence of the strike action. It was entirely understandable that customers were seeking supply elsewhere given the unavailability of capacity in Darlington, Mr Moss said.
He went on to explain: “Against this background it continues to be disappointing that Unite continues to fail to engage with the key issue that orders are drastically reducing as a consequence of the strike action. The threat of legal action contained within Unite’s press release will do nothing to restore orders and create work to keep people employed when work is simply not there in the future”.