Strike ballot at semiconductor plant

Oldham plant is home of the semiconductor

A third of the workforce at a plant in Oldham building semiconductors are to vote on strike action today (Friday 25 August) in a pay dispute.

American owned Diodes Zetex Semiconductors have offered a 5.5% pay increase while their representatives from the Unite the Union are holding out for something closer to the inflation rate of 9%. 

Unite has been quick to point out that the NASDAQ quoted business boasted parent company Diodes Incorporated made massive gross profits of £827 million in 2022, up 23 per cent.

Accounts filed at Companies House in June 2023 for the operations of the UK business show pre tax profits of £29.3m for the year ending in 2022 while its parent racked up a gross profit of £827m.

The accounts also show that the business invested over £3m in “fixed asset additions”.

Diodes have been contacted for comment but have not responded at the time of publication.

On Tuesday reported that 160 members of the Community Union at Prescot-based home appliances manufacturer, Glen Dimplex, are to stage a second two-week strike, starting on August 28 as an escalation of their pay dispute.

Unite is balloting 126 members at Diodes Zetex comprising of direct manufacturing operatives, professional engineers and support staff. It also said there are 23 workers earning just the minimum wage.

The annual report states the number of employees as 358 in 2022, up from 345 the previous year.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This global giant is swimming in cash while the workers in Oldham are struggling to keep their heads above water. It’s no wonder they’re voting on strike action. This is a company which can easily afford to raise salaries.

“The workers have Unite’s full support throughout their campaign for a fair wage instead of a pay cut.”

The skilled manufacturing workers build leading, high quality semiconductor devices for industrial, automotive, computing, consumer electronics and communications markets. The company supplies components to a large number of electronics manufacturers and any strike action will disrupt the supply chains of these manufacturers.

Reviews on the employer review website Glassdoor are generally favourable with an average of 4 stars and none below 3.

Unite regional officer Tracey Ashworth said: “The skilled manufacturing workers at Diodes Zetex Semiconductors have helped to make the company hugely profitable and successful. It’s only right that they get a fair share of the profits.

“There’s still time to negotiate and avoid industrial action. We hope management uses this time wisely.”

Historically, according to tech blog Hackaday, the plant was one of the very first semiconductor facilities, having begun operations in the 1950s by Ferranti. In 1959 they made the first European silicon diode, and went on to commercialize Uncommitted Logic Arrays (ULA) in the early 1980s. 

US giant Diodes acquired the business in 2010 for £89 million.

Most famously, Ferranti ULAs were used in many home computers of the day, such as the Sinclair ZX81 and ZX Spectrum, Acorn Electron, and the BBC Micro.