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13 March 2019

Newark NSK strike: "Even Victorian workers got a day off each week. We're expected to have just one weekend off every three weeks"

24 Unite members in the G2 Finish and Grind department of Japanese company NSK have been on strike since 4 March. Pickets at the Newark factory, making super-precision machine bearings, explained the background to Jon Dale from Mansfield Socialist Party:

In 2016, management imposed a new contract just on this department. A strike was defeated, workers having to accept the contract or be out the door. Banked hours at basic rate replaced voluntary overtime at time and a half.

Within a year, management abused the new system, making split weekend working compulsory without consultation. The afternoon shift week now finishes on Friday at 11.40pm instead of 7.40pm, followed by a week of day shifts starting at 6am on Sunday. Some workers have up to an hour-long commute. Taking a day off at weekends is marked as absence, resulting in disciplinary procedures.

Breaks were cut from 50 to 35 minutes. The average working week is now 48 hours. Whether workers have families or not, whether they are young or older, everyone needs proper time away from work. Senior managers are never seen in the factory at weekends, but might be spotted at the golf course!

Picket line morale is high, although the other 500 workers on site are not in dispute and are still working. All production has to go through the G2 department. Non-stop hooting from passing traffic shows support.

NSK is owned by a Japanese corporation that made 323 million net profit in the last nine months of 2018.