Bookie SP Graham insists strike won't hit its business for Grand National
Leading bookmaker Sean Graham vowed it will be business as usual today in its betting shops despite strike action by staff on one of the busiest betting days of the year.
As Grand National fever grips the UK, Unite trade union spokesman Davy McMurray confirmed that industrial action would proceed.
"Counter staff working in SP Graham outlets across Northern Ireland will be taking strike action to demand a living wage from their employer," Mr McMurray said last night.
"They are reporting strong support from punters, who agree that they deserve a decent rate of pay.
"We are calling on the wider public to respect the workers' strike action and to refuse to cross picket lines."
In a hard-hitting statement last night the bookmaker said that all its premises would be open for business.
Chris Deery, general manager of SP Graham, said: "The industrial action that has been taken is supported by less than a quarter of all Sean Graham staff.
"For our staff who will be in work today and for the public who use our shops the most important matter is that they can enjoy the Grand National without intimidation.
"Previous industrial action in March impacted on just four of the 13 outlets in Belfast, and none in the rest of Northern Ireland.
"All of our shops will be open today, Grand National Day, one of the busiest racing days in the year."
Mr McMurray said: "We are calling on SP Graham management to return with a realistic pay increase for their workers - one that reflects their contribution to business profits."
Mr Deery rejected the union's claims, saying: "As an employer, we recognise the important role our staff play in making our business successful.
"We have offered a rate of pay to cashiers that will protect the viability of the business and jobs in the future. Managers will get the same 10.24% rise across two years and are paid substantially above the National Living Wage already. We can offer no more as to do so would cost jobs and cause shop closures."
Mr McMurray said he was confident the strike would be supported by union members at SP Graham and the general public.