A Unite spokeswoman told FoodManufacture.co.uk that ballot papers are being sent out from today to around 230 members working in driving or warehouse roles at distribution centres in Bristol, East Kilbride, Edmonton, Enfield, Exeter, Northampton and Sidcup.
Exhausted other options
A current pay offer of 2.3% has been described as “insulting” by the union, which claims that strike action will “severely hit suppliers of the popular refreshment [Coke] across the country”.
Unite national officer, Jennie Formby, said: “Unite is balloting its members at CCE in response to the paltry pay offer by the company which amounts to less then half of RPI [the retail price index, an indicator of inflation]."
“The ballot has come after Unite and its workplace representatives exhausted every possible option to reach a fair settlement through negotiation. The union has been left with no option now but to ballot members for industrial action," she added.
Given global revenues up 40% to £6.5bn this year, Formby said it was unacceptable for CCE “to reward its workers with the bitter taste of pay cuts. The effect of this pay offer is a pay cut for already low-paid distribution workers.”
“It is insulting to the workforce that this vastly profitable multinational is refusing to listen to its employees and acknowledge their contribution to the success of the organisation.”
A CCE spokesman said: "CCE is very disappointed by the rejection of the company’s pay offer and the trade unions' intent to ballot for industrial action."
Competitive pay rises
He added that the pay negotiations affected around 5% of CCE's British-based staff. "We are committed to ongoing dialogue with all these employees and the unions, and we firmly believe that continuing dialogue – unlike industrial action – offers the prospect of a constructive outcome."
The spokesman said that CCE had already successfully concluded pay negotiations with Unite and other employee groups this year. "We have been talking with the unions in detail and frequently over recent weeks," he said.
"We intend to continue this approach to reach a constructive outcome to the pay negotiations. In the current economic climate, the pay rises that CCE are offering are very competitive."
Any industrial action as a result of the ballot would "still be several weeks away", the spokesman added. If it went ahead, he said CCE would activate plans to ensure minimum customer disruption and supplies throughout the important summer trading period.