Unite told FoodManufacture.co.uk that its members at the firm’s Cambuslang site in South Lanarkshire had delayed the walk-outs for two weeks while they assess the impact the announcement will have on staff.
The union also claimed to have been “hit on the blind-side” by the news as they prepared for the strikes, originally scheduled for March 8 and 12.
Consolidate its supply chain
Unite convenor at Vion, Scot Walker, said: “On Monday of this week, (March 5) Vion made an announcement that it had lost a large contract with Sainsbury’s after it had decided to consolidate its supply chain to two suppliers. Vion was not one of those and has decided to carry out a review of the situation.
“As a consequence, the particular strike dates have been suspended while we take a short period to assess what impact this will have one our members. I stress it will be a short period and probably no more than two weeks.”
FoodManufacture.co.uk reported on Monday that the strike dates had been confirmed to begin yesterday in a row over changes to pay terms and conditions at the firm.
The dispute began in October last year after workers rejected a 2% pay increase offer, plus changes to their holiday entitlement. The news followed press reports that Vion’s UK business operations had tripled since 2010.
The Vion workforce voted overwhelmingly in favour of a series of industrial actions following an official ballot, where 92% of members backed strike action on a 72% turnout, according to Unite.
“Vion recognises a number of unions and organisations on a site-by-site basis. Our dispute at Cambuslang is over the pay offer,” Walker added.
“Our members welcomed the holiday allowance but the 2% pay increase unfortunately amounts to a pay cut when you consider the Retail Price Index.”
The firm was unavailable for comment at the time of publication. But earlier in the week a Vion Spokesman described its proposals as “fair and reasonable”.
He said: “Vion can confirm that it has been advised of a further two days of industrial action by Unite at its Cambuslang site on March 8 and 12 in response to the annual pay award negotiations.
“The business continues to be disappointed with the response from the union as the company has presented a very fair and reasonable proposal, especially given the current challenging economic climate.”
The Cambuslang site is one of about 40 UK sites employing 12,500 workers owned by Vion NV, the Netherlands-based multinational, which is the largest meat processing company in Europe and the fourth largest in the world as measured by 2010 sales, according to Unite.