A LEADING Wigan crane firm at the centre of a pay dispute which could lead to strike action has been accused of failing to play fair in negotiations.
A source who asked to remain anonymous said morale among operators at Ainscough Crane Hire had hit “rock bottom” after a pay rise of 1.5 per cent was rejected.
The firm, based at Bradley Hall Trading Estate in Standish, recently held last-ditch talks with union Unite to try to reach a settlement and stave off the threat of walk-outs.
However, the union member has now accused the company of dragging out negotiations over pay for months to avoid the times of year when business is strongest and get out of increasing salaries.
The source said: “We decided that, as this time of year is always quiet for us, when it next came to payment talks we would hold them in summer when the company is busiest.
“This started before June and they have dragged their feet so it has slowly crept into this time of year and now the directors say the company is struggling and there’s no money.
“All that came of the last talks on November 5 was we were told to take the 1.5 per cent or leave it, it’s that or nothing. Everyone’s had enough of it and morale is at absolute rock bottom.
“This time it looks like something is going to come out of it. There’s also some scaremongering about redundancies but it seems the company is singing two different songs really.”
The source said crane operators still hoped to avoid strike action or introducing work-to-rule arrangements as it would hit employees in the pocket but said ballots would be held if Ainscough’s negotiating position did not change.
He said: “The numbers which have come to the union reps suggest there will be some action, possibly before Christmas.
“There’s talk of us opting back into our 39-hour week without overtime and only leaving the yard at 8am and finishing at 4.30pm.
“It won’t get us a lot in the short term because we make a lot of our money doing overtime but it would upset quite a few customers who need weekend jobs or ones with a lot of travel involved doing.
“Hopefully it doesn’t come to this because everyone needs money at this time of year but if it helps in the long run we are willing to do that.”
Ainscough Crane Hire was approached for comment but did not respond.