The union said its members felt “disillusioned and undervalued” after a 1.5% pay offer in April while their counterparts at another site received a 2% pay increase.
Further 48-hour stoppages are planned for Friday September 28 and Monday October 1. Staff voted overwhelmingly in favour of strikes with 91.6% in favour.
A spokesman for Barry Callebaut told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We feel that we have made a fair proposition with our latest offer. Our proposed increase to salaries comes alongside a significant investment into the factory, also ensuring the long-term future of all employees.”
‘Couldn’t reach an agreement’
The spokesman added: “We've been in negotiation with union representatives for months, but couldn't reach an agreement yet. We are keen to reach a settlement and are available to meet with the union representatives to that end.”
But Mick Pollek, Unite regional official, said: “Our members have been left feeling betrayed and angry by the way they have been treated by management.
The paltry 1.5% offer was made back in April and we are still in dispute. Management have shown no interest in meaningful discussions or involving ACAS [Advisory, Conciiation and Advisory Service]. The fact that other employees have been given a 2% pay increase just adds fuel to the Banbury staff’s anger.”
‘Action will resume’
Pollek added that unless management agreed to meaningful discussions, strike action would resume later this week.
“Management is now putting pressure on staff to accept the below inflation pay offer. They say that unless workers accept this deal before the end of the year they will also lose any back pay,” he said.
“We have been told to ‘use our imaginations’ in ways of coming up with a solution. We feel we have been. We have offered to look at ways of making the site more profitable, shifting the pay date, multiple year deals and staggering the increase. None of these have been given any consideration by the management.”
Swiss-based Barry Callebaut supplies most of the UK’s major chocolate manufacturers with chocolate pellets from raw cocoa.
Meanwhile, last week Barry Callebaut announced plans to sell its chocolate factory in Dijon, France and the associated business Chocolaterie de Bourgogne.
A spokesman for Barry Callebaut said: "Chocolaterie de Bourgogne will continue to provide 12,000t of liquid chocolate per year to Barry Callebaut under a five-year supply contract.”