Is a deal in ‘incredibly silly’ Nestlé dispute within reach?

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Nestlé UK remains hopeful that it can prevent a long-running pay dispute with UK staff from spilling over into widespread industrial action by continuing to negotiate on a site-by-site basis.

Speaking to after the Unite and GMB trade unions announced plans to conduct strike ballots at selected Nestlé UK sites including its chocolate factory in York, Nestlé UK corporate communications manager James Maxton said talks would continue, despite the impending ballots.

He added: “We remain in local negotiations with almost all of our sites. We have never participated in national bargaining and we do not plan to start now.”

‘Incredibly silly’ dispute

One source close to the discussions said agreement should be within reach given that there was not a huge gulf between the negotiating positions of the company and staff at most sites.

He added: “This has all become incredibly silly. When it comes down to it, the difference between what Nestlé is offering and what the unions will accept in total cash terms is actually not that enormous.

“I think everyone is hoping that some element of common sense will emerge.”

Performance-related pay

Nestlé has offered a 1% rise in basic pay plus increases to its performance-related bonus scheme.

But unions are asking for a 2.5% increase in basic pay, GMB national officer Alan Black said last night.

“We had a meeting last Friday to try and resolve this once and for all but the negotiating process has now been exhausted. We want the money offered to go into the basic pay rate, not into bonuses that are paid as lump sums and don’t count towards pensions and so on.

“Realistically, we will probably start balloting members in around four weeks with a result in around six weeks, but we have to make sure we follow all the correct protocols.

He added: “Nestlé claims that it conducts all pay talks on a local basis, but we’re sceptical because the offers that have been made to staff appear to be the same at all sites. However, talks are still continuing at a local level."

Members of Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers), which has several members at Nestlé’s coffee factory in Hayes, Middlesex, are not (yet) planning to hold a strike ballot, said a spokesman.

“We are still trying to reach an agreement so we won't ballot until we've exhausted all other possibilities.”

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