Unite threatens strike action at British Sugar

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

The pay dispute at British Sugar has sparked a ballot for strike action by Unite members
The pay dispute at British Sugar has sparked a ballot for strike action by Unite members

Related tags Sugar

Industrial action has been threatened across British Sugar’s factories in the east of England, after members of worker union Unite rejected a ‘not so sweet’ pay offer from the manufacturer.

Unite members in British Sugar factories in Norfolk, Suffolk and Nottinghamshire have spurned a 2% pay rise in a consultative ballot, over claims the manufacturer had promised to implement a reasonable pay rise when it ‘returned to profitability’ in 2019.

The result of the consultative ballot from the technicians, engineers and supply chain operatives at British Sugar’s Newark, Wissington, Cantley and Bury St Edmunds factories has led Unite to launch a ballot for strike action, which opens on 5 July and closes on 26 July.

‘Broken promises’

Unite regional officer Mark Plumb said: The backdrop of broken pay promises, extravagant executive remuneration and British Sugar’s take it or leave attitude to negotiations means that this dispute could turn sour very quickly.

“Our members feelings are running high and coordinated strikes at every one of British Sugar’s processing factories during the UK’s sugar beat harvest could cause real problems for the company’s operations and across its supply chain.​”

The Union called for the manufacturer to honour its pledge and noted that director’s pay had increased in line with its return to profitability – director’s pay increased by 46% from £819,405 to £1,198,031, while the total pay for all the company’s directors increased from £2m to £2.6m.

A spokesman for British sugar said: “We are in active negotiations with Unite to reach agreement on our pay offer for our factory based people.

"We are therefore disappointed that the union is talking about strike action and the communication today contains a number of inaccuracies. We are confident we will reach an agreement that works for all in the coming weeks.

‘Not so sweet’

Plumb added: “British Sugar is operating at a profit and can clearly afford massive pay rises for top staff​. This dispute can be resolved quickly and amicably if British Sugar improves on its not so sweet pay offer.”

Meanwhile, Unite has called off industrial action at Jacob Douwe Egberts’ JDE’s Banbury plant​ in order to facilitate talks with the manufacture over ‘fire and rehire’ plans for workers.

The organisation is to hold two weeks of ‘intensive talks’ with JDE in a bid to resolve the dispute of re-engagement for 291 employees at the factory.

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