Britain's wool textile industry is facing the threat of industrial action following a breakdown in talks over pay.

The Transport and General Workers' Union is calling a series of selective strikes after rejecting a pay offer of 1.5 per cent from the Confederation of British Wool Textiles. The offer was described as "derisory" by the union.

The TGWU is intending to target individual companies in a rolling series of strikes. First to be hit will be the Bulmer and Lumb Group, which includes Bulmer and Lumb, ATC Dyers, Walshaw Drakes, Boardman & Smith, S H Rawnsleys, W Pearson and H F Hartleys Ltd.

The industrial action will begin on July 8 and will take place on one day each week. The union is also imposing a ban on overtime and says it is withdrawing goodwill.

National organiser, Peter Booth, commented: "Following the derisory pay offer of 1.5 per cent, workers in this industry are left with little alternative than to take industrial action in support of a fair wage settlement to this year's negotiations.

"Workers in wool textiles are among the lowest paid in British industry. To expect them to accept wage increases of less than a fair going rate is nothing less than to condemn them to perpetual low pay."

He added: "Our members are among the highest skilled industry workers in Britain producing some of the finest cloths and materials in the world and their skills and abilities should be properly and adequately rewarded."

However, The Confederation of British Wool Textiles has expressed doubt about union members' readiness to take strike action, and it has warned that there is no
more money available.

"We are disappointed that the union¹s members rejected our offer of a 1.5
per cent increase on earnings we made earlier this year. We feel it was a
realistic and reasonable offer in all the circumstances the industry has
been in for the last few years," said John Lambert, director general of
the Confederation.

He added: "We note that only a small proportion of the union¹s members took
part in the industrial action ballot they held. We understand that they
balloted a total of 776 members and out of that number only 202 voted. We
feel that it reflects a lack of enthusiasm for the course of action they are
embarking on."

Mr Lambert said that it had been made clear to the union both during talks
and since negotiations ended that the offer would not be increased. The
industry could not afford a larger pay award at this time.

By Clive Hinchcliffe