A Unite spokesman said: “A global pay freeze by brewers Carlsberg has left a sour taste in the mouth for workers at its Northampton plant.” Its members will take the industrial action from 00:01 hours on Thursday.
The workers voted by 89% for industrial action short of a strike and by 77% voted for strike action. But it was decided to impose a work-to-rule/overtime ban, as “shot across the bows of the bosses”.
The industrial action could see production and deliveries being delayed, claimed the union. Its members working for Carlsberg in the UK were said not to have received a pay rise since April 2014.
‘Escalate into a full-scale strike’
Unite regional officer Sean Kettle warned the industrial action could become a strike if negotiations with Carlsberg were not forthcoming. “If this limited industrial action does not bring the management to the negotiating table with a genuine pay offer, this dispute could well escalate into a full-scale strike with increased disruption to production and deliveries of the firm’s premier brands,” he said.
“We are seeking a fair reward for the dedicated hard work that our members carry out on a daily basis in Northampton to contribute to Carlsberg’s success.”
The union feared Carlsberg’s allegedly global wage freeze this year, in the absence of what the union called “any real negotiations”, may be extended into next year.
“Members feel the pay freeze is being imposed because of the company’s ultimately unsuccessful venture into the Russian market in recent years, which has now been affected by the dramatic fall in the rouble,” said Kettle.
Two-year pay deal
But he added that some sites on the continent had received a pay rise this year, as the second part of a two-year pay deal. Also trade pub sales in the UK increased this year.
“This dispute should be set against the separate issue of the planned closure of the final salary pension scheme in April 2016 and the transfer of 30% of longer-term employees to an inferior scheme,” said Kettle.
Carlsberg workers wanted “probably the best pay deal in Northampton this year”, concluded union officials.
Brands brewed at the Northampton plant included: San Miquel, Carlsberg Special Brew, Carlsberg Pilsner, Carlsberg Export, Holstein, Skol and Skol Super. The plant also packages Sommersby ciders.
The Carlsberg Group is the globe’s fourth largest brewer and employed more than 45,000 people across a portfolio of 140 brands.
A Carlsberg spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “As a result of macro-economic circumstances in Russia and Ukraine, and difficult trading conditions in the UK, in order to protect the long-term future of the business, a group-wide pay freeze was announced at the beginning of 2015, which affects all of our colleagues in the UK.
“We have discussed this decision in detail with our colleagues and unfortunately are yet to reach a resolution with our brewery representatives. This has resulted in the decision that has been taken by our brewery colleagues. A plan is in place to ensure any potential disruption to supply will be kept to a minimum.
“We remain open to on-going dialogue in order to resolve this matter quickly, in a manner that ensures the long-term future of the UK operation.”