Workers at a Suffolk paint factory have downed tools in a row over pay.

Shop floor workers at AzkoNobel's plant in Stowmarket began strike action on Wednesday (November 30) after a 94% union vote in favour of the move. 

Union Unite described a 4.3% pay offer as "derisory" and "deplorable" in the face of soaring inflation - with the Retail Price Index (RPI) reaching 14.2%. It represented a "huge" real terms pay cut, said the union.

The company said it had improved its offer and its "door was open" to talks. It would "continue to engage with our union partners to resolve this issue", it added.

Unite claimed the 24 hour action - which is set to be repeated on Wednesday, December 7, if no agreement is reached - could lead to paint shortages. However, this was denied by the company.

AzkoNobel employs 94 people in all including office and managerial staff at the Imperial Chemical plant, which makes Dulux paints and is located on one part of the former ICI site.

The two sides were split on how many workers took part in the strike action at Stowmarket. Unite claimed more than 70, while the company put the figure at 33.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Unite regional officer Neal Evans said other employers in Stowmarket understood the need to help their workers during the cost of living crisis and had increased pay accordingly.

"We genuinely want to talk," he said. "I can't remember the last time there was ever a strike up there and this is not something we have done lightly."

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham added: "This is an incredibly wealthy company whose desire to drive down workers’ pay is being driven by greed not need.

"The company needs to rethink its deplorable pay offer, return to negotiations and propose a fair deal. The jobs, pay and conditions of our members is Unite’s top priority and we will be supporting the workers at Imperial Chemical every step of the way."

East Anglian Daily Times:

Site manager Andrew Dawson acknowledged workers were facing increases in their bills - but said the factory had also seen "relentless" price rises. He called on the union and workers to reflect on the offer on the table.

East Anglian Daily Times:

"There is no doubt that this year’s pay talks are being conducted in the most difficult economic circumstances," he said.

"We have a genuine desire to fairly reward our colleagues in Stowmarket and we have held several meetings with the union representatives to listen to their concerns which resulted in an improved pay offer of 4.3% which remains open for acceptance."

In addition to the improved pay offer, the company was providing all staff earning up to £44,200 a one-off payment of £605 to help with the cost of living, he said.

He pointed to a proposal to set up a "personal fund" so the Stowmarket workers could be access pay early and "favourable" pension and healthcare packages.

He did not anticipate any shortage of supply to customers, he added, and said the company would "proactively manage" supply from other sites.

But Unite regional officer Mark Jaina said: "This dispute is entirely of the company’s own making.

"Unite has made every effort to resolve this dispute through negotiations but it has refused to address members’ concerns. It needs to start listening to its workers, return to the negotiating table and dramatically improve the pay offer."

Since opening in 1972, the factory has produced nearly 2bn litres of paint and employed 500 people, the company said.