In a ballot of 223 workers – an 89 per cent turnout – 85 per cent voted for recognition.
The ISTC was de-recognised by the then owners, Co-Steel, in 1992 after HR director Hugh Billot declared there was no need for unions at the plant.
The company reportedly established “termination” and “re-indoctrination” programmes for those seen as malcontents. Joe Davey, the ISTC branch secretary, was made redundant and workers alleged there was a regime based on fear and intimidation.
In 1996 the company’s actions were condemned by the International Labour Office and a British Safety Council award was withheld after complaints from workers. When Associated Steel and Wire bought the plant in early 1999, it pledged to give the Sheerness workers the right to vote once recognition laws came into place.
Tim Allen, the director of the Sheerness site, said the agreement was “an opportunity to put the past behind us and go forward in a spirit of partnership”.
ISTC assistant general secretary Eddie Lynch described the vote and deal as a “huge triumph for our Sheerness branch”.