British Sugar strike ballot set to go ahead next week

INFLATION-HIT sugar factory workers in the East of England are set to vote next week on possible strike action over pay.

INFLATION-HIT sugar factory workers in the East of England are set to vote next week on possible strike action over pay.

Members of the union Unite at British Sugar plants in Bury St Edmunds, Cantley, near Great Yarmouth, Wissington, near King’s Lynn, and Newark in Nottinghamshire, will decide whether to take strike action or industrial action short of a strike.

British Sugar said members of the GMB union had already accepted their pay offer, which it described as “fair” in the current economic climate.

The results of the ballot, which will involve the factories’ 250 Unite members, will follow the ballot, which takes place from Wednesday, September 21, to Wednesday, October 12.

Members of Unite have already rejected a 3.5% pay offer and are seeking a pay deal equal to Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation, which is currently running at 5.2%, plus half a per centre for the year April 2011 to April 2012.

Members of Unite, the largest union in the country, at the plants include engineers and production staff.

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Unite regional officer, Mick Doherty said: “Our members are being hit very hard by the soaring cost of living. British Sugar is a very profitable company, and despite its complaints that the sugar beet crop was hit by last winter’s bad weather, it is well able to afford a decent pay rise.”

A British Sugar spokesperson said the company had undertaken “all necessary steps” to mitigate any disruption to its four processing factories and the delivery of its products to customers.

“British Sugar has been in active pay negotiations with the trade unions representing our unionised employees since March 2011,” she said.

“We have worked extremely hard with the trade unions to secure an offer that we firmly believe is fair and reasonable within the current economic conditions, and is above average pay awards in the external market place.

“The offer comprised a 3.5% consolidated increase in salaries for all employees (permanent, seasonal and temporary), an increase in the contractual notice period from one week to one month for both the employee and company, and for employees retiring from British Sugar to provide the company three months notice. All components of this package were recommended for acceptance by the trade unions to their members.

“Members of the GMB union have accepted the pay offer. However, members of Unite the Union have opted to conduct a ballot to vote on industrial action.”