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Friday, April 24, 1998 Published at 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK


Britain's longest-running dispute over
image: [ Over 300 workers were sacked by Magnet Kitchens when they went on strike ]
Over 300 workers were sacked by Magnet Kitchens when they went on strike

Britain's longest-running dispute has ended with workers at the Magnet company voting to accept a financial settlement.

All of them were sacked by Magnet nearly three years ago and until now have refused offers of a financial settlement put forward.

The dispute began in August 1996 when 320 workers were sacked after demanding a pay increase at the factory in Darlington - after a four-year pay freeze.

Magnet offered them a 3% pay rise, but only to half the workforce. An official strike was called and strikers were promptly sacked.

A new workforce has since been brought in, but the picket line campaign for reinstatement continues.

Workers have now agreed to accept Magnet's latest offer of a one-off payment of about 850,000, which amounts to about 2,500 per person. However, some would receive as little as 250, and others up to 8,500.

This is an improved offer - in January they were offered roughly 1000 each to cover costs of retraining and job searching.

[ image: Workers have campaigned for three years]
Workers have campaigned for three years
Campaigners have described all the offers as "derisory." Furthermore, only 82 strikers have been allowed to vote, because union rules state only those "in dispute" throughout the course of the action are eligible - ruling out those who did any temporary work.

Magnet's financial reports for last year state that productivity went up by 15% at the Darlington plant and profits rose from 4.2m to 11m - an increase of more than 50%.

In its financial results for the year up to September 1996, Beresford, Magnet's parent company, wrote off 3.5m to cover the costs of the strike.

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