Union and bookies still at loggerheads after Grand National strike

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Sean Graham says all its shops - including those in Londonderry and Claudy - were open for the Grand National despite a strike by members of the Unite trade union, which says punters “turned away from bookies in droves as they refused to cross picket lines.”

Chris Deery, General Manager, of the bookmaker chain said: “Grand National always has its challenges as customers come out in force for a bet on the big day. The decision of some staff to strike meant front line reorganisation but we were still able to deploy staff to help the once a year customers get their bets on quickly – every shop was open for business. It is not our wish for staff to miss out on the most fun day in the racing calendar.

“Currently just 23 per cent of total staff are involved in strike action and many union members are now working. Unite have bolstered picket lines with interest groups and, perversely, have told our customers to bet with our competitors who will pay less than we propose, particularly those paying an under 25 years of age rate where we have offered £7.29 per hour not £6.70.

“We anticipated some customers would not cross the picket lines which came and went as Unite moved striking staff from shop to shop within Belfast. We experienced no picket lines in any other area.

“However, many customers placed their National bets the day before so as not to offend staff on Saturday and this also reduced the impact of industrial action.”

Davy McMurray, Unite officer for staff, said: “This was an undeniably successful strike with most outlets only eventually opening only to remain exceptionally quiet on what should have been the busiest day of the year.

“Our members and Unite want to thank all those who refused to cross the picket lines. In showing your solidarity for these striking workers you have struck a blow for fair pay for all and strengthened the hand of workers in struggle everywhere.

“Unite was very pleased that representatives of the Bakers’ Union joined us on the picket-line, as did representatives from a wide variety of progressive political parties. Their presence meant a lot to the workers concerned and will be remembered as we head into elections.

“As management count the cost of this strike action, Unite is calling on the Graham family to intervene directly to put an end to it. They now know the strength of determination of their staff, including many young workers, to obtain a decent rate of pay, so as to lift themselves out of poverty.

“There is much to be gained from paying their workers a Living Wage; a move that would transform the unnecessary negative publicity associated with this dispute and improve the company’s standing in the public mind.

“We are calling on the Grahams to intervene directly and commence negotiations. We wish to end this dispute but can only do so when our members receive a decent pay offer – such a move will ensure that we do not have to take further days of action in pursuit of this goal”,