Members of the workers union Unite downed tools this week after it claimed management failed to address the cost-of-living crisis.
According to the union, workers received a two-year pay deal – effective from 1 April 2022 – with a commitment from Suntory to review the second year’s increase should inflation exceed 5% between January to June 2023.
Rate of inflation
While the inflation saw an increase above 5%, Unite claimed the manufacturer did not meet expectation in relation to the commitment.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham accused Suntory of failing to offer members a fair pay rise. She added: “Unite does what it says on the trade union tin and always puts the jobs, pay and conditions of its members first. The workers at Suntory have Unite’s complete support.”
Today’s strike action will be the first of its kind at the Royal Forest Factory since the 1970s.
Response from Suntory
Commenting on the strike, Suntory Beverage & Food supply chain director Karl Ottomar said: “We are in active discussions with our trade union and our employee representatives to secure a fair and positive outcome for everyone. While we have been notified of a one-week strike at our manufacturing site beginning 5th February 2024, we hope to reach an agreement shortly so that we can focus our energy on looking forward.
"Our current remuneration package makes us a very competitive employer in the region. The employees taking part have received two pay increases in addition to a one-off additional payment since 2022 in recognition of their work and to support with the cost-of-living crisis."
Unite claimed the walkout would lead to shortages of Lucozade and Ribena and empty supermarket shelves.
Regional officer Michael Hobbs said: “The strike action will inevitably result in shortages of consumers favourite drinks, but Suntory has brought this strike on its self due to it unreasonable actions.”
However, Ottomar said that the company had business continuity plans in place to ensure minimal disruption through the strike.
"During this week, the factory will remain open with production lines still producing drinks for customers nationwide," he added. "SBF GB&I remains committed to supporting all our employees, suppliers and customers, working with fairness and consistency.”
Meanwhile, strike action at a Cargill Cocoa and Chocolate plant has ended after workers agreed to a new pay offer.
Members of the GMB Union working at the facility in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, voted in favour of a 10.4% pay rise and a one-off payment to help with the cost of living.