Suttons Safety Tanker BP (3)

Suttons Tankers has said that changes to employees' terms and conditions are necessary to protect jobs in the long term, after coming under fire from union Unite.

Unite has threatened legal action over what it described as "an outrageous attack on workers’ rights".

According to the union, more than thirty members – drivers and fitters – had been on strike since the 19 January over plans by Suttons Tankers, part of Suttons Group, to dismiss and re-engage them on inferior terms and conditions.

However on Wednesday 24 January Unite claimed it was given less than 30 minutes’ warning that Eastham Refinery of Ellesmere Port, where the workers are based, was in Manchester High Court seeking an injunction.

“No notice was given, which meant Unite had no opportunity to defend the application or to put forward the union’s case,” Unite said in a statement.

The case will recommence this week (1 February).

Unite regional officer Kenny Rowe said: “This injunction which was applied for in the most disgraceful and underhand way is designed purely to deny workers their rights including the right of freedom of association.

“Suttons Tankers need to stop hiding behind Eastham Refinery and to return to the negotiating table in order to resolve this dispute.

“Our members only took strike action after the company’s actions in trying to force a contract on them which slashed their pay, left them with no other option.”

In response, a spokesman for Suttons Tankers said: “The changes we are proposing are necessary for us to remain competitive and to protect jobs in the long-term.

“We are engaging in constructive discussions and hope progress can be made.”