Dozens of Unite union members protested against low pay from their employee Wincanton at the B&Q Distribution Centre outside Brendan Clarke-Smith’s job fair today (January 28).
Members gathered from 10am for a full day of striking and banner-waving before swapping with those still standing on the picket line outside the warehouse at the Old Manton Wood Colliery Site, in Retford Road.
Regional secretary for Unite East Midlands Paresh Patel joined union members outside Worksop Masonic Hall, Queen Street.
Speaking to the union members, he said: “We all know the cost of living has hit the roof and beyond.
“Electricity has gone up, gas has gone up, food has gone up, fuel has gone up - and that’s why you’re here fighting when your employer has made a £120 million profit by Wincanton and B&Q on the backs of each and every one of you.
“You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of demanding a decent pay increase.
“The fact you stood strong for nine weeks solid shows your strength, your determination to make sure you get what you absolutely rightly deserve.
“When you’ve got a Tory MP like Brendan Clarke-Smith in there telling you you can’t have the union to pay for your cost of living - he’s so disconnected and so far removed from the people of Bassetlaw and from you that just shows you the despicable character he is.
“I’m glad to see so many of you here today, showing your strengths, showing your determination to make sure that we’re here to stay and we’re not going to give up the fight until you get what you deserve, which is a decent pay increase.”
Wincanton employees are currently a minimum of £9.96 per hour.
The National Living Wage is currently £8.91 and will be increased by 6.6 per cent to £9.50 on April 1.
Protesting outside the job fair came about after Mr Clarke-Smith allegedly “mocked [the members] plight” last week when he invited them to attend his job fair and did not offer his help in their campaign to increase their wage from Wincanton.
On January 20, Mr Clarke-Smith also suggested on Facebook that members “cancel [their] membership of Unite, which will save [them] up to £15 per month”.
Around 400 of the 500 Wincanton workers employed at the Worksop B&Q depot have been on strike since November, and will continue until February 20.
Workers were offered a four per cent pay rise last year which was rejected by 88 per cent of union members as they are seeking a pay that reflects the cost of living and better working conditions are morale was left at “rock bottom”.
Unite has a £55million strike fund in place to provide financial support to members while they take industrial action.
Yesterday, Mr Clarke-Smith wrote on Facebook ahead of the strike: “Tomorrow I am holding a jobs fair in Worksop, which will help local people connect to employers at a time when many are hoping to secure work as we emerge from the pandemic.
“Shamefully, Unite and their members think it is appropriate to try and ‘protest’ at this jobs fair, threatening and intimidating members of the public.
“Why are they doing this you ask? Last week their Regional Secretary contacted the Worksop Guardian and demanded that I stated my position and intervened in the pay dispute at B&Q.
“I commented that I thought all employers should pay their workers a fair wage and it should be relative to the cost of living.
“Clearly this wasn’t the answer they wanted and they had already decided to make a cheap political attack whatever I said.”