Edinburgh strikes: Honeywell workers in sex discrimination dispute over claims men paid more than women

Union leaders are battling aerospace giant Honeywell in a sex discrimination dispute on top of a strike for better pay.
Workers at Honeywell's Edinburgh factory have been on strike all week and will walk out again next Thursday.Workers at Honeywell's Edinburgh factory have been on strike all week and will walk out again next Thursday.
Workers at Honeywell's Edinburgh factory have been on strike all week and will walk out again next Thursday.

Unite regional officer Carrie Binnie said one woman at the firm's Edinburgh factory was paid £7,000 a year less than a new male recruit she was training on the assembly line.

And she said three women were paid less than men with similar skills. The company says it has investigated and there is no evidence of sex discrimination.

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Ms Binnie said: “One woman who has been employed at Honeywell for more than 20 years is training a new start, a young man, who is on £7,000 more than her.

“The evidence we gathered is that the males the women are paid the same as seem to have less skills or experience, and the people that are on more than them have got the same skills and experience or they are brand new starts.”

She said the equal pay grievance had been lodged in March but had still not been resolved.

"We feel like we're being held to ransom because the management now admit 16 of the 29 staff in that section need to be 'levelled up', but we have been told it will only be dealt with once the pay negotiations are finished.

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"They say they have found a solution but they are withholding it – at a time like this when that extra money is certainly needed. If they think they're paying people unfairly Honeywell should be addressing that and not be using it as leverage against us in any negotiation.”

Production and assembly workers at the Newbridge factory have been on strike all this week after rejecting a three-year pay offer which would have meant a 2.75 per cent rise this year and next and a zero per cent rise in the third year.

Unite described the offer as “pitiful” and pointed to Honeywell’s annual revenue of £34.5 billion.

Ms Binnie said she had contacted the company after it told the Evening News last week it was "committed to bargaining in good faith to reach a comprehensive agreement that is fair to employees and supports our business". She said negotiations had come to an end earlier in the summer when the company said its offer was "full and final" and the union warned that would mean a strike ballot.

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She said: "I went back to the company and asked if they had a new offer and said that as always I’m committed to finding a resolution and I looked forward to hearing from them, but I’ve heard nothing.”

She indicated the union might approach the conciliation service Acas in the hope of finding a way forward, but said a previous attempt had been fruitless. "Acas contacted the company several times, but they just kicked the can down the road. It was disappointing they didn’t engage with Acas. I feel we’ve offered several olive branches, but in the end the members were let with no option but to walk out at the start of September."

The workers staged two one-day strikes before this week’s walk-out and they plan to be back out again on Thursday (October 6).

Ms Binnie said: “Things will only escalate if they’re not going to come back round the table. They need to make some sort of proposal. Our members are not just going to come back in because they’re cold and wet.”

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A Honeywell spokesman said: “Honeywell take the accusations that male employees receive preferential treatment when it comes to salaries very seriously and conducted a thorough review at the time.

"There is no evidence to substantiate this claim. We encourage women to join our company at all levels and support them in creating successful and rewarding careers.”

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