Police called as Edinburgh workers take strike action over new contract terms and conditions

Workers on strike at a SAICA packaging plant in Edinburgh have spoken out against a “power grab” and claim mistreatment by Police Scotland.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 5:55 pm

The industrial action follows a decision by the company to negatively change the contracts of Unite members as they relocate to a new Livingston site in 2022.

Workers are also angered at SAICA extending the working week and introducing a banked hours agreement.

Employees are unhappy that their new terms and conditions will be unfavourable compared to the historical national agreement set out by Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) that SAICA was a signatory to for all of its UK Corrugated sites up until last month when they served a six month notice.

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And Unite says that the changes being proposed in Scotland are outside the national agreement and could undermine the terms and conditions across UK sites.

As a consequence those taking industrial action will do so every Wednesday and a ban on workers carrying out overtime has also been implemented.

Carrie Binnie, a Unite industrial officer, said that she was disheartened by the tactics used by SAICA during the dispute.

She said: “SAICA asked for all workers to sign their new contracts by March 16 - the day before we started industrial action. This was used as a threat to employees.

Picket at SAICA

“Some older members of the workforce have also chosen to take redundancy packages but in a Q&A with SAICA it was threatened that ‘if there was not a smooth transition’ then their redundancies may be altered.

“It is absolutely unacceptable for SAICA to ask our members to sign a contract that will diminish their rights and working conditions as employees. SAICA have used the pandemic for a power grab.”

Workers involved in a peaceful picket at the company’s Edinburgh site were dispersed on the morning of March 17 by Police after threats of fines and further ‘punishment’ for anyone orchestrating the dispute were made.

Unite Scotland has criticised the actions of the Police and said they were abiding by all Covid guidelines. They also informed Police Scotland in advance of the strike and no objections were raised at that time.

SAICA picket

Superintendent Mark Rennie said: “Officers were made aware of a potential gathering in respect of planned industrial action at a business premises on Turnhouse Road on Thursday 17 March 2021.

“Police attended around 6am and after speaking with people there and reminding them of the current Covid regulations, the small crowd dispersed.”

A spokesperson for SAICA said: “SAICA Group is disappointed in this course of action; however, we will continue to engage with Unite in good faith.

“We are committed to our highly valued employees and will do everything we can to minimise any potential impact.”

They added that the SAICA group’s long term future in Scotland is dependent on them being able to update their workers terms of employment and that the £68.6m investment in the new Livingstone site showed their commitment to employees.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Following representations to Ministers by Unite and the Fair Work Convention last week, amendment regulations have been published today, and come into force on Friday, which provide clarity to both unions and Police Scotland and will help to ensure a consistent approach to the policing of picketing events.”

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