Pirelli Workers Asked to Take Unpaid Leave
(Cumberland News) All 1,000 workers at the closure-hit Pirelli tyre factory in Carlisle have been asked to take unpaid leave because bosses believe it is in the plant’s best long-term interests.
Production at Pirelli is due to resume tomorrow after a shutdown. Managers issued the appeal to workers on Tuesday, two days before engineers confirmed that the two boilers, which had triggered the shutdown, eight days ago have now been declared safe.
The factory has stood idle since workers discovered a crack in the main boiler at the Carlisle site last Thursday. Since then workers have been asked to stay away as engineers carried out cleaning and made vital safety checks on the boiler, as well as the one at the firm’s sister plant in Burton, where the factory is also at a standstill.
Production at both plants is expected to resume tomorrow.
But there has been concern among some workers after their bosses wrote to them, setting out a series of options for covering the cost of the eight-day closure.
A union agreement gives workers the option of taking 75% of their basic pay. But the letter tells them that Pirelli has now agreed to give them three options:
Accounting for their time off work by using up paid holiday entitlement;
taking the last week’s time off as unpaid leave; or continuing to be paid but repaying the firm by putting in the requisite extra hours by the end of next year.
The letter says that despite the collective deal to give workers “lay-off” pay at 75% of basic rates, minus overtime and shift premium, “..it must be stressed that the options listed, in agreement with the trade unions, are in the best-long term interests of the factory. Please let your administrator know which option you have chosen.”
The letter concludes by thanking employees for their co-operation at this difficult time and promises to keep everyone informed at the relevant times.
The closure has halted the production of thousands of tyres at the plant, which normally operates around the clock all year.
Some workers contacted The Cumberland News this week, saying that they feared they may lose money as a result of problems which were not of their making.
Alan McGuckin, regional industrial organiser for the Unite union, which represents the bulk of Pirelli workers, said the union had not agreed to support the alternative options in the letter.
He said: “We acknowledge that there are alternatives people can be given, but we don’t have recommendations. What we do have is an agreement covering 75 per cent of minimum earnings levels in exceptional circumstances like this. Workers are entitled to what is in the agreement.”
One worker who contacted The Cumberland News said it was unfair that workers should lose out. “This isn’t our fault,” he said.
Another employee said: “People are worried this is a smokescreen for more job cuts.”
The closure came a few weeks after it emerged that bosses want to shed 60 manufacturing posts at the plant because foreign competition has resulted in lost orders and sales. It is hoped compulsory job losses can be avoided.
A Pirelli spokeswoman said yesterday: “Both boilers involved have passed an inspection and production will resume at the weekend.”
She said workers should contact the factory to confirm shift arrangements. The spokeswoman said the company would not discuss the arrangements for dealing with workers pay during the shutdown period.
In 2005, senior Pirelli managers unveiled plans for a giant wind turbine, which they said was crucial to the factory’s long-term success as it strove to cut energy costs.
Planning permission was granted and managers have said that while there is doubt over whether the city is windy enough the 120m turbine is still part of Pirelli’s plans for the future. (Tire Review/Akron)