The action came after the firm decided to force through a pay freeze on staff at the site, claimed the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).
Up to 550 members vented their anger at a refusal to renegotiate pay at the factory during the 48-hour stoppage, said the union. The strikes on Monday (June 15) and Tuesday (June 16) will be followed by a further strike on July 17 and 18, the union said.
Members had been joined on the picket line by more than 100 managers, John Higgins of the BFAWU told FoodManufacture.co.uk
‘Forced to bring in agency workers’
“We’ve had a fantastic turnout on the picket line today,” he said. “There are 550 members at the site so [Gunstones] has been forced to bring in agency workers.
“This is about management’s refusal to negotiate an increase in pay. People are really, really fed up. The overall mood is very negative and people feel used.
Products made at Gunstones bakery
- Sandwiches and bread rolls
- Hot cross buns
- Garlic bread
- Mini roll selection
- Roast chicken salad
The strike has garnered the support of the bakery firm’s suppliers, Higgins added.
BFAWU members and officials had initially agreed with the company to keep any pay negotiations in abeyance due to over four-hundred redundancies being made, the union claimed.
But, the company refused to offer staff an increase following the redundancy consultation period, citing the overall cost of the redundancies as a reason for non-movement on pay, it added.
BFAWU members at the site subsequently balloted for industrial action, but gave the company a window of six weeks to negotiate further.
A pay increase of 4%
Five days before the strike was due to take place, union members at Gunstones met and made a proposal to the company that involved a pay increase of 4% over two years with no back pay, Higgins said.
“What we asked for as a show of good faith was a chance to renegotiate,” he added.
“We asked for a 4% increase over the next two years; 3% for the next year and 1% for the year just gone.”
The company refused the proposal and made it clear to BFAWU members and officials that any movement on pay would have to be ‘self-financing’, he added.
Employees at the site may have to sacrifice existing terms and conditions in order to secure any increase, he claimed.
A spokesman for Gunstones bakery said it had hoped industrial action would be avoided whilst talks were ongoing.
“We are keen to continue meaningful talks with colleagues and their Union representatives so that we can reach a mutually satisfactory conclusion,” he said.
“We are working with our customers and have created contingency plans which will minimise the effects of action.”
Meanwhile, the BFAWU's Higgins told FoodManufacture.co.uk that union members returned to work at the bakery this morning (June 17).