Crane strike threat to Retail Quarter

HTC cranes on phase one of Sheffield Retail Quarter.
HTC cranes on phase one of Sheffield Retail Quarter.

Work on Sheffield’s Retail Quarter could grind to a halt if crane operators go on strike over pay.

Ballot papers are being sent to Unite members who work for HTC Wolffkran, which is headquartered in Sheffield.

The union says it has taken the ‘regrettable’ decision to seek a mandate for strike action after the company refused to hold fresh talks about pay.

The firm, which employs 386 including 260 crane operators, is working on high- profile construction projects across the country including Sheffield’s Retail Quarter, the Tottenham Hotspur stadium and Greenwich Peninsula.

In Sheffield, HTC cranes are helping to build new offices for HSBC, phase one of the Retail Quarter.

If, as expected, workers vote to strike, they will take action later this summer and are set to “create chaos across the industry,” a Unite spokesman said.

Previous talks collapsed when the company refused to increase their pay offer beyond three per cent, with a commitment of bringing holidays in line with industry minimums.

The offer is a cut in real terms as the Retail Price Index is currently 3.7 per cent and expected to increase, he added.

Workers will begin to receive their ballot papers from tomorrow, Wednesday, and the ballot will close on Monday, August 4.

Jerry Swain, Unite construction officer, said: “This strike ballot is taken very much as a last resort and is entirely a result of HTC Wolffkran failing to put forward a pay offer that meets our members’ expectations and its refusal to return to the negotiating table.

“Without an improved offer contractors need to brace themselves for major disruption as sites grind to a halt and projects are delayed.”

A spokesman for HTC Wolffkran said their offer was a three per cent pay rise and an extra day’s holiday this year and next - six per cent in total over the next two years.

And it came after the equivalent of a 20 per cent increase over the last three years, if a lump sum bonus paid to all staff was included.

Crane operators earn an average of £60,000-a-year, he added.