Bookies and union at loggerheads over Grand National strike

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The general manager of Sean Graham bookies says shops, including those in Londonderry and Claudy, will open for business on Grand National Day even though there will be strike action over pay by some staff.

Chris Deery made the comments after Unite reported “overwhelming support from punters in [their] fight against poverty wages.”

In a statement Mr Deery said: “The strike over Cheltenham impacted a small number of shops in Belfast, however, the rest of our shops in Northern Ireland were unaffected by the action. The majority of staff wish to accept the pay offer.

“Our offer to staff is £7.29, more than the new £7.20 National Living Wage rate and it has been well reported that even the £7.20 is likely to cause job losses across many business and the service sectors. The rate on offer equates to a 10.24 per cent increase overall yet Unite would have it as almost a paid by Government increase. We along with many other employers have to find that increase.

“We cannot improve our offer as to do so would jeopardise jobs and force shop closures. Unite only need to look Ladbrokes in Ireland which took it’s business into Examinership and closed upwards of 60 shops and there have been significantly more closures by other bookmaker chains – unsustainable costs will mean closures.”

But Davy McMurray, Unite officer for staff, said: “Unite members working in SP Graham bookmakers have been overwhelmed by the support offered by their customers for their fight against poverty wages. Completed petitions by punters promising to boycott the employer have been coming in to our offices all week ahead of the planned strike on Grand National Day (April 9).

“This Saturday will be the third day of industrial action taken by our members and will demonstrate the continued determination of workers to win a Living Wage.

“SP Graham Ltd is a highly successful bookmaker. It can well afford to pay their workers decently. The current pay offer leaves workers just nine pence an hour above the bare legal minimum and was overwhelmingly rejected by the workforce. It’s time management got serious about sharing their business’ success with their workforce.”