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Carpet factory workers in West Yorkshire begin talks with employer as 8-week strike goes on

WORKERS at a carpet manufacturer in West Yorkshire were in talks today to end an eight-week strike over pay.

Seventy-five members of general union Unite walked out on indefinite strike at Westex Carpets on November 20 last year.

Based in Cleckheaton, the company makes carpets primarily for up-market hotels and corporate buyers.

Unite regional officer Kelvin Mawer said: “Westex is a small firm but makes £5 million profit every year.

"The workers have always received a three per cent annual pay increase, but last year the firm proposed only 2.2 per cent. It was rejected by 99 per cent of the workforce.

“In July we asked if pay talks could be started again. They said yes — and then said they were putting in a pay freeze until March on the basis that orders were down.

"But the profits were still the same. We had a ballot and this is our eighth week of strike action.”

The union is now in talks with the company through conciliation service Acas in a bid to end the long-running strike action.

In addition to the Cleckheaton factory the firm has a small dye house in Dewsbury.

“There are only four people working there,” said Mr Mawer. “One of them is a manager, one of them is in the union and he’s on strike.”

The strike has become a focus for support from local unions.

The Trades Councils of Bradford, Leeds and Huddersfield-based Kirklees sent funds to help the strikers over Christmas and New Year. Donations have also come in from local Unite branches and other union branches, and the strikers are in buoyant mood.

“We’re picketing every day including the night shift,” Mr Mawer said. “They’re a really good, strong bunch, very determined.

“If there’s no settlement we have to re-ballot after 12 weeks."

Unite said the company cited financial difficulties for the pay freeze, despite making pre-tax profits of £5.44m during 2018/19 and £5.164m in 2018/17.

Mr Mawer said: “Our members will not back down or be fobbed off with empty claims about financial constraints that are contradicted by Westex’s pre-tax profits of £5m a year.”

The company claims its employees are among the best-paid in the industry.


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