About two-thirds of Unite union members at the site voted against the latest offer* and started a fourth 24-hour strike from 7.50am yesterday morning (Jan 11).
However, both parties have agreed to meet for further talks facilitated by ACAS.
Jennie Formby, Unite national officer for food and drink said stoppages would continue until Heinz tabled a better offer: “The company is fully aware that the industrial action will continue until we reach a settlement that is acceptable to our members, so I hope that when we meet they will be prepared to add some real value to the offer."
Ian Wright, Unite deputy convenor at Heinz stressed that the below-inflation offer represented a pay cut in real terms: “Heinz must understand the depth of feeling among our members. They work hard and Heinz is a vastly wealthy company, it can afford to pay its workers a fair wage."
Heinz: Action makes us less competitive
Heinz, meanwhile, said it was extremely disappointed with the result and insisted that its offer was worth more than an extra 10% to the average worker’s wage at Kitt Green over two years.
Meanwhile, further industrial action would only make the site less competitive, argued a company spokesman: "The outcome of the ballot is not a vote in support of jobs or future investment in manufacturing at Kitt Green. The site is already the most costly for labour across the Heinz manufacturing network in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
"The poor absence record at Kitt Green, running at twice the national average, adds further cost. Unite claims Heinz should pay even more but we have to remain competitive to ensure we can continue to pay above market pay increases."
He also highlighted rising commodity costs and the competitive climate. "This industrial action will leave many totally perplexed and rewards no one in the long term."
Kitt Green is the biggest food production facility in Europe, manufacturing more than 1bn cans of soup, beans, puddings and pasta meals a year.
Staff at the site have already gone on three 24-hour strikes since the dispute came to a head late last year.
* The latest offer on the table comprises a 3.5% pay rise in year one and a £200 lump sum, and a 3.4% rise in year two, plus a performance-related bonus.