TANKER drivers in P&O Trans European Spot Affreightment Division are gearing-up to carry out the first of a number of planned one-day strikes on Monday.
More than 50 men based at the Rossmore depot will join another 50 P&O drivers nationally in what will be the first of a series of planned walk-outs after talks over a new contracts of employment broke down.
The Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G) claims the new contracts proposed by the company would mean a cut in pay of up to £5,000 a year.
Drivers were balloted and voted by more than 90% in favour of strike action with the first walk-out on Monday and further one-day strikes planned for September 24 and 25.
Spokesman for the T&G Ron Webb said: 'There are reports of 60% increases in operating profits at the same time that our members are facing up to 11% pay cuts. No doubt some smart and smooth words from the accountants will say the company is actually having a hard time but to our members a rise in profits is a rise in profits.
'The challenge now is for the company to convince us that an 11% pay cut, which can only be made up by cutting corners and potentially compromising safety to reach new productivity targets, is justified and fair.'
He added: 'From where we stand at the moment the company has been caught out. They should come back to the negotiating table and talk to us about fair rewards for dangerous work, not unjust pay cuts.'
A spokesman for P&O Trans European said: 'The planned strike action is regrettable. Discussions on pay structures for these drivers have been taking place over two years. The talks have been aimed at matching the T&G union's target of a national unified wage deal.
'Unfortunately, no agreement could be achieved with the union. As a result, P&O Trans European has had no choice but to issue new contracts to the drivers involved. We would emphasise that this action was only taken after a failure to reach an agreement during two years of negotiation.'
The Spot Affreightment Division is responsible for transporting hazardous chemicals, making deliveries to many independent petrol retailers, particularly in rural areas as well as car showrooms.
The company claims that although P&O is profitable, the Spot Affreightment Division is not and that is what bosses are trying to rectify.