Alan Black, national officer at the GMB union, told Foodmanufacture.co.uk that Nestlé typically negotiated pay rates separately at individual sites, but that staff at its York chocolate factory and the Fawdon sweets factory had been told that pay rates would be frozen in 2010, suggesting that Nestlé had adopted a “national approach” on pay.
He added: “If everyone is being told there is a pay freeze, it makes a nonsense of the idea that pay is handled locally at each site [Nestlé has eight factories in the UK]. They just don’t like the idea of national bargaining with unions so they are claiming pay is still negotiated on a case-by-case basis. Nestlé has got money rolling out of its ears and the chief executive was awarded a substantial pay rise this year. Our members just want a pay rise in line with inflation.”
Union members were also unhappy about proposed changes to the company pension scheme, said Black.
The consultative ballot on whether to hold a strike ballot is being run by the GMB, Usdaw and Unite trade unions, who all have members at Nestlé, he said.
While a ‘straw poll’ at York had indicated members wanted a strike ballot, it was important to have a formal consultative ballot and do “everything by the book given recent events" [British Airways and Network Rail recently managed to block industrial action on the grounds that unions had not followed legal protocols], he said.
“The closing date is April 23, and after that we’d expect it would take another three weeks to conduct a strike ballot.”
Nestlé told Foodmanufacture.co.uk that it was continuing to talk to the unions in a bid to resolve the issues.