The GMB union claimed that production at the site was so severely affected by the three days of strikes (1-3 August) that Britvic had allowed some employees to operate machinery, even though they were not trained or competent enough to do so.
The union even claimed the company was using managers to run essential equipment, in breach of their own policies.
A Britvic spokeswoman described the claims as “completely spurious” and said the company refuted them “wholeheartedly”.
“We fully comply with all relevant health and safety regulations and guidelines and the safety and wellbeing of our employees, across all of our sites, is of the utmost importance to us.”
Ivan Mercer, GMB regional organiser, said: “It is extremely worrying that the company are willing to put employee’s health and safety at risk in an attempt to keep production going by using untrained labour.
“We will continue to monitor these activities and will be informing the HSE [Health & Safety Executive] of the company’s actions.”
Commenting on the GMB’s accusations, the HSE said: “HSE is aware of the concerns raised and inspectors have visited the site. HSE investigated and a notice of contravention was issued on the basis of these findings.”
GMB announced plans to strike at the Norwich factory last month, in a bid to bring Britvic to the negotiation table over the redundancy package offered to its members.
Five weeks of industrial action
Workers at the factory – set to close by 2019, with the loss of 242 jobs – plan another five weeks of industrial action, after the company’s “refusal” to meet with the GMB.
“We are hoping that the announcement of carrying out 24-hour strikes for three days per week for a six-week period will encourage Britvic to meet with us to agree a way out of this dispute,” said Mercer.
A Britvic spokesman told Food Manufacture that the industrial action would not lead to a larger redundancy payment.
Meanwhile, GMB members will take industrial action at the Budweiser brewery after a worker was sacked for raising health and safety concerns, it claimed.