More than 700 workers at Bakkavor’s food manufacturing factory in Spalding, Lincolnshire, will strike from late November until the New Year over “poverty pay.”
Unite, the union, has said that many of the workers earn just 1p over the national minimum wage with some being forced to use food banks.
The production line operatives, who make own brand soups, sauces and deli produce for Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and M&S, have rejected a 6.5 per cent pay offer. Unite says this is a substantial pay cut when the real rate of inflation, RPI, stands at 14.2 per cent.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The situation these workers face is exactly what is wrong with Britain’s economy today: A company earning millions and millions in profits expecting already low paid workers to take a pay cut while prices soar.
“Unite will not tolerate attacks on our members’ jobs, pay or conditions and our Bakkavor members have the union’s complete backing as they strike for a better deal.”
The strikes, which begin on 25 November and will last until 2 January, will impact own brand food products for Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and M&S. More strikes will be scheduled if the dispute is not resolved.
Strikes were due to take place in early November but were postponed to allow for an amended pay offer to be voted on. The workforce rejected the offer and negotiations between Unite and Bakkavor have since collapsed.
Unite regional officer Ravinder Assi said: “Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and M&S all have a case to answer if they do not pressure Bakkavor to use some of its massive profits to give these workers a proper pay rise.
“Supermarket customers will be appalled to know that the own-brand goods they are buying are made by supply chain workers who are being treated so disgracefully. Bakkavor can well afford to put forward an offer our members can accept and needs to do so.”
The news comes after Bakkavor announced proposals to close Bakkavor Salads in Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire and Bakkavor Desserts in Leicester.
Bakkavor said in a statement: “Bakkavor can confirm that following a ballot of its members the Unite union has rejected the proposed 6.5% pay increase and will move to take strike action at Bakkavor’s Spalding site. Around half of Bakkavor’s colleagues at Spalding are members of the union.
“We have detailed contingency plans in place to ensure that we continue to serve our customers and that any disruption is kept to a minimum.
“Across its UK sites, Bakkavor has been awarding pay increases for colleagues – a move to support its people despite the challenging economic context for the sector. Bakkavor believes its proposed 6.5% pay award for colleagues in Spalding is positive and sustainable and is part of a broader package of employee benefits.
“Bakkavor’s proposed pay offer ensures we remain competitive in the local market at a time when current trading conditions are causing significant levels of inflation across its cost base. As with businesses all over the UK, we are having to take decisive action to adapt to the challenging macro-economic backdrop, as we seek to protect our business. This has recently included our proposal to close two sites; Bakkavor Salads in Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire and Bakkavor Desserts in Leicester as announced on 9 November.
“Bakkavor is very disappointed the Unite union is going ahead with strike action based on pay claims that are simply unsustainable in the current trading environment.”