Operators at the UK’s biggest mobile crane hire company, Ainscough, this week begin voting on whether to take industrial action.
Britain’s biggest union, Unite, is balloting members at Ainscough for strike action and action short of strike, after talks failed to reach agreement in a pay dispute.
The ballot opens on Thursday 10th December and closes at noon on Monday 11th January 2016.
The company’s revised two-year pay offer of 2.5% and 2.75% was overwhelmingly rejected by the union’s crane operator members, with 85% voting to reject the new deal in a recent consultative ballot.
Ainscough has a fleet of more than 450 cranes operating from a network of 30 depots. It has more than 900 employees, of whom approximately 500 are in crane operations.
Bernard McAulay, Unite national officer for construction said: “Sadly, despite repeated attempts and long drawn out negotiations to resolve the pay dispute, we have been left with no option but to move to a full industrial action ballot.
“Our members have a fantastic track record. They consistently deliver across all industrial sectors in some of the most difficult working environments, helping to make Ainscough the envy of the UK crane industry. Now is the time for the company to recognise their contribution and step back from the brink.
“The last thing our members want to do is take strike action. The company’s continued refusal to recognise their invaluable contribution to Ainscough’s success is the final straw.
“Morale is plummeting. Our members are angry that the company can boast of making a £14 m profit last year and yet ignore their calls for a decent and affordable pay rise. The longer the company ignores their case, the more damaging the dispute will be.”
Ainscough was built up into the UK’s biggest mobile crane hire company in the 1990s by the Ainscough family before a management buyout in 2007. In 2012 it was bought by private equity firm TPG and Goldman Sachs. In March 2015 there was another change of owner with a take-over by US-based Oaktree Capital Management.
Unrest among the workforce comes as the company sets out on an acquisitions spree under its new owners. It has just completed the takeover of Specialist Crane Hire, which has depots in Morecambe, Wigan and Bishop Auckland.
“Acquisitions are a key part of our five-year plan,” said Ainscough managing director Robin Richardson, “and we are delighted to make such an excellent acquisition at the beginning of this process”.
Legacy crane hire companies (or their assets) within Specialist Crane Hire include A Jardine & Sons, Marsden Crane Hire, Steel Force Bowmech, Telford Crane Hire and Rushlift.