A majority of the 800 members of the GMB trade union at the plant voted in favour of strike action on October 30 in a dispute over a decision to suspend sick pay. In addition, the GMB said management had intimated it planned to outsource production to other plants.
Members hope that a strike can be averted although they were ready to press ahead with strike action if talks did not yield a settlement, said the GMB.
The organisation said it had not publicly announced dates for strike action to allow time for discussion to resolve the issues in dispute.
If talks were unsuccessful, dates for strikes would be set at the factory, which makes Jacob’s Cream Crackers and Club chocolate biscuit, said the union.
Earlier this month it was announced that UB had been bought by Yildiz, parent company of the Turkish manufacturer Ulker Biskuvi Sanayi. It has pledged investment in UB sites in the UK, particularly Aintree, in a bid to become the third largest biscuit manufacturer in the world.
“These are last ditch talks with UK senior management to avert stoppages of work,” said Stuart Fegan, GMB national officer for the food manufacturing industry. “This dispute has been caused by a bullying management allowed to drag the company’s name through the mud by weak control at national level in the company.”
In addition, Fegan said members were reacting against plans by UB’s senior management to outsource production at Aintree to other locations.
“GMB has been organising with our sister UK trade unions to resist the threatened outsourcing of products away from the Aintree site. This has been supported by our European sister unions.”
“The UB management must be crackers to think the workforce at Aintree who have made a massive contributed to the profits of UB and for the last hundred years would lie down without a fight.”
He said the GMB would liaise with trade union colleagues in Turkey and internationally about UB’s behaviour in relation to the Aintree site, so that cuts were resisted at other sites.
In a statement, UB said: “We have been in extended talks with employees and union representatives for over a year, and have made every effort to reach a constructive solution for all parties. We can confirm we have a further meeting with all Union Representatives on Monday 17th November where we hope to resolve this issue.
“We have excellent terms and conditions at our Aintree factory, and the changes we are proposing are essential to remain competitive in the market. They are changes that have been implemented at all our other sites, and are supporting our efforts to secure a long term future for manufacturing in the UK.
‘Inaccurate and misleading’
“We are surprised at the inaccurate and misleading comments made about UB by the GMB. Comments like this when both parties are supposedly keen to resolve this dispute through dialogue are not helpful.
The company claimed two issues were at the heart of the dispute. One was “relatively minor changes to a two-week Christmas shut down which was agreed in principle with GMB representatives in May of this year”. The other was “the introduction of a modernised absence management system which incidentally allows for improvements in sick pay for over 85% of Aintree staff”.
“No employee is in anyway worse off in relation to the proposals being discussed and UB is hopeful that talks on the 17th will resolve this dispute,” it said. “We have contingency plans in place to ensure that should there be any industrial action, we can continue to give our customers the same quality of product and service that they are used to.”