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Strike to hit Sean Graham bookies as Cheltenham Festival gets under way

By Staff Reporter

Staff at Sean Graham bookmakers are set to go on strike during the Cheltenham Festival, on two of the biggest betting days of the year.

The industrial action involving mostly women is due to take place over two of the busiest days of the world-famous Cheltenham event - Stan James Champion Hurdle day and Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup day.

It will mean a big financial hit for the bookie, which has around 25 shops in Northern Ireland.

Negotiations have been going on with the Labour Relations Agency for some time, but no resolution has been reached.

Union officer Davy McMurray said Unite members had overwhelmingly rejected a management pay offer which would leave them earning just nine pence more than the legal minimum.

"At a very well attended meeting, with considerably more than half our members present, workers voted with a majority of 88% to reject the management pay offer. Strike action set for Tuesday and Friday will now proceed.

"The management offer would have left workers earning only nine pence per hour more than the lowest wage legally payable after April of this year," he said.

Mr McMurray added: "Our demand for SP Graham to become a Living Wage employer has been very positively received by the public. Our members have been buoyed by the support received from regular punters who say they will be boycotting the company in support of the staff.

"We are receiving membership applications from SP Graham Ltd offices across the whole of Ireland, north and south, reflecting the strength of feeling among staff over the issue of poverty pay.

"As a whole, the bookmaking industry is a multi-million pound sector whose huge profits are sustained by the efforts of workers expected to live on rock bottom wages.

"Even at this late stage it is not too late for management to avert strike action - we call on SP Graham Ltd to commit to becoming a fully-accredited Living Wage employer."

Sean Graham had not responded to a request for a comment before going to press.

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