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John Deere strike starts to bite amid hopes for a swift resolution

FARMERS and suppliers are hoping for a swift resolution to a strike at US agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere, warning that the action is starting to bite.

“If this gets sorted out in a couple of days, great,” farmer Brian Jones told the Des Moines register on Sunday.

“But if it drags out for weeks you start to get a little concerned about things,” he added.

Agricultural workers fear that equipment may break down as they face their bumper time of year, bringing in the harvest.

More than 10,000 members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union walked out last Thursday in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas for the first time in 35 years.

They are demanding better pay and conditions, rejecting a six-year deal offered by bosses as 90 per cent voted in favour of industrial action.

Workers argue that the company can afford a rise with executives predicting record profits of almost $6 billion (£4.3bn) this year, a rise of 63 per cent.

John Deere is valued at more than $100bn (£72.7bn) on the stock market, with the value of its shares tripling during the coronavirus pandemic as workers kept the company going.

Its chief executive, John May, received $15.6 million (£11.3m) last year, a 160 per cent rise from the $6 million (£4.3m) he was gifted in 2019.

“Our members at John Deere strike for the ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity and establish fair work rules,” UAW international vice-president Chuck Browning said.

He said that workers were committed to negotiations to settle the dispute, but remained resolute in their strike action.

John Deere vice-president of labour relations Brad Morris said that the firm was “determined to reach an agreement with UAW … to make them the highest paid employees in the agriculture and construction industries.”

The biggest upsurge of industrial action seen in the US since the 1950s has seen about 30 groups of workers walk out, leading the AFL-CIO to label the month Striketober.

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