The verdict came after a union meeting on Saturday, where members based at the Kitt Green site (pictured) expressed anger at a below-inflation pay offer of 3.3% for 2010 – with an increase for 2011 capped at 3% – and also alleged that Heinz had rewarded shareholders unduly.
Unite is now pursuing “urgent talks” on the pay offer with Heinz UK management, and if its demands are not met will prepare a ballot for Wigan members “in a matter of weeks”.
Massive company profits
Jennie Formby, Unite national officer for food and drink, said: "In these difficult economic times, Heinz is doing exceptionally well with massive profits this year and forecasts to do the same in 2011.
"So why tell workers that they can only have 3.3% when shareholders get offered a tasty 10%?
“There is absolutely no need for Heinz to be so stingy. The baked beans produced here are favourites in every household in the land. Heinz products can be found on tables and in store cupboards around the globe.
Formby said the pay offer made a mockery of the corporate responsibility ethos “paraded by the Heinz family”.
“If Heinz really does care about the community,” she said, “it can start by treating this community, its workers, with respect. Unite urges Heinz to think again. Meet with us, let's talk about improving what’s on the table and let's stop this situation escalating."
Heinz: staff getting ‘great’ deal
Heinz director of corporate and government affairs Nigel Dickie would not tell FoodManufacture.co.uk whether management were willing to accept further talks with Unite over pay.
Dickie said: “We are perplexed that an industrial action ballot is being held and an offer of a headline pay increase of 3.3% this year and up to 3% next has been rejected when Site Union representatives and the National Officer acknowledge this final offer is the best that can be achieved.
“In addition, the offer also includes an annual non-performance related fixed payment of two weeks basic pay, a one-off payment of £200 plus significant improvements to the healthcare scheme.
“Against an uncertain economic climate and severe government cutbacks this is a great deal for Heinz people in Wigan but the current action being contemplated will leave many totally baffled.”
Heinz’s Wigan plant turns out over one billion cans of product a year, and manufactures soup, beans and pasta meals.