According to the trade union, Cepac told employees that it is considering 61 redundancies amid ongoing industrial action by workers at one of its packaging facilities in Darlington.
In response, Unite has warned that it will support unfair dismissal claims against Cepac if the firm makes any workers involved in strike action redundant.
More than 90 members of staff at the plant in Darlington started striking on 14 August 2023. Four weeks of strikes were announced initially, but that has since been extended to eight weeks after negotiations stalled.
Employees at the packaging facility rejected an 8% pay rise offer prior to voting in favour of industrial action last month (August 2023). Explaining the decision to walk out, the trade union said that conditions such as longer hours, lower overtime rates and a change in shift patterns were attached to the offer making it unpalatable.
Cepac produces corrugated packaging for food and drink manufacturing clients including Mars, Carlsberg, Innocent, Pernod, C&D Foods Group and Diageo. The firm is headquartered in Rotherham, with locations in Rawcliffe and Doncaster, as well as Darlington.
Unite focused on fighting for members jobs
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham described the actions of Cepac as “despicable”.
“If they think their underhand and potentially illegal actions will force Unite to take a step back in the fight for fair pay for Cepac workers, then they have entirely miscalculated the union’s laser like focus on always fighting for the jobs, pay and conditions of its members,” Graham said.
Meanwhile, Unite regional officer Pat McCourt added: “The ongoing industrial action is creating major problems for Cepac’s customers which will only become more severe the longer the strike action continues but this is entirely of the company’s own making.”
'Total loss of printing capacity'
In a statement issued by Cepac, managing director Steve Moss said that the firm had experienced the "total loss of all print capacity" as a result of the recent strike action.
"Against this background it continues to be disappointing that Unite continues to fail to engage with the key issue that orders are drastically reducing as a consequence of the strike action," Moss added.
"The threat of legal action contained within Unite’s press release will do nothing to restore orders and create work to keep people employed when work is simply not there in the future."