Vion and Unite the union resolve pay row

By Dan Colombini and Freddie Dawson

- Last updated on GMT

Workers at the Cambuslang site will hold a series of strikes throughout April and May
Workers at the Cambuslang site will hold a series of strikes throughout April and May

Related tags: Strike action, Investment

 Last-minute negotiations between meat processing firm Vion and workers at its South Lanarkshire plant have led to the immediate cancellation of imminent industrial action in the row over pay and conditions at the site.

Further strike dates had been scheduled for key production dates in April and May but these have now been called off after workers accepted the original pay deal offered by the firm, Vion confirmed.

Rob Smith, group communications controller at Vion, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Following yesterday’s meeting with workers at the Cambuslang site, a decision was taken to cancel all industrial action with immediate effect. The workers have now accepted the original pay offer set out by Vion​.”

U-turn

Smith declined to comment on the reasons behind the u-turn but he confirmed the dispute had now been resolved.

Earlier this week, the union Unite revealed that its members at the site would undertake a programme of “discontinuous industrial action​”, amounting to 10 24-hour strikes over the coming months.

A ban had also been placed on overtime and work to rule provisions at the Cambuslang site, Unite confirmed.

Speaking earlier in the week, Unite convenor at Vion Scot Walker said: "We've repeatedly sought to engage with the company but it’s clear they have no interest in negotiating with us.

“This is a low-pay sector of the economy; the basic wage is less than £7 an hour but Vion is a global food processing giant with a turnover of nearly €9bn.”

Walker added that taking industrial action in the current economic climate was the “last thing​” its members wanted to do, but stressed that workers at the site needed to “fight back​”.

The news comes after a 24-hour strike also took place on February 20, which was then followed by the suspension of two further strike dates last month, as a result of Vion losing a key contract with Sainsbury.

The dispute began in October last year following the rejection of a 2% pay increase offer plus changes to holiday entitlement. 

Spurned

However, protracted efforts by Unite to reach a negotiated settlement had been spurned by Vion throughout that period, according to Unite.

Meanwhile, Vion has confirmed it will invest £11.5M in its facility in Northern Ireland, creating 164 new jobs.

The investment will increase operational efficiency and potential capacity at Vion’s Cookstown site – the largest pig processing site in Ireland, according to the firm.

The move will also include an upgrade to its refrigeration system, a spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

Seamus Carr, md of Vion Cookstown said:“Our strategy is to build on the success of the Cookstown brand by investing in our people and in our processes. We anticipate a substantial increase in productivity and sales as a result of this investment​.”

As well as improving potential capacity, the investment will also improve the treatment of pigs being slaughtered, the spokesman added.

Vion was given £960,000 by Invest Northern Ireland, EU regional business development agency for the area, to help with the expansion plans.

This included £244,500 that was made available through its jobs fund. The agency chose to help fund Vion’s plant investment because of the potential the project had for job creation.

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