Maintenance workers at three Dale Farm sites have voted to strike over a pay claim, union leaders say.

It comes after a fallout regarding wages when production workers were offered larger pay increases than maintenance workers.

Maintenance workers from across three Dale Farm sites voted 75% in favour of strike action and 80% for industrial action short of a strike in a ballot run by the union.

It’s understood that 20 employees were balloted.

Union representatives said they had invited bosses to “last-ditch” negotiations, including through mediation of the Labour Relations Agency.

Speaking on behalf of the union’s membership at Dale Farm, Liam Gallagher called on management to engage in meaningful negotiations following a strong vote for industrial action by members.

“Unite members at three Dale Farm Ltd factories – Cookstown, Ballymena and Cullybacky – have voted overwhelmingly to endorse industrial action in a ballot conducted after the collapse of pay negotiations.

Following on from this result, on Thursday last, union representatives wrote to Dale Farm Ltd management outlining their determination to secure a decent pay increase for the maintenance staff at all three sites.

“We offered last-minute negotiations either directly, or through the offices of the Labour Relations Agency [LRA].

“They must reconsider their refusal to seek mediated negotiation; previously Dale Farm bosses pulled out of LRA talks two days before they were due to have started.”

‘We Will Be Robust In Pursuit Of Our Demands’

Gallagher added that the union was “genuine” regarding the need to avoid a strike; however, added: “Management should be under no illusions that if we are left with no alternative, Unite will be robust in pursuit of our members’ demands.

“Bosses have been compelled under law to offer the bare minimum increase to production workers’ wages but their refusal to extend this same increment to maintenance workers threatens to leave these skilled workers watching their pay fall ever closer to the legal minimum.

“[This] is not a company suffering from severe financial pressures; it is an expanding business, part of the highly-successful Dale Farm Group.”

However, a spokeswoman for Dale Farm denied the firm had refused to engage with the union.

She said: “Dale Farm values its relationship with all unions representing our employees and works closely with them at all times on issues that may impact upon staff.

“These employees were offered an above-average pay increase in April 2018. We have been in liaison with Unite and have not at any stage refused to discuss queries around pay increases or the concerns of the employees involved.

“We continue to work with Unite to resolve this matter as soon as possible.”