Employees at Refresco Gerber are to hold eleven 36-hour strikes over a 10-week period due to the organisation’s plans to cut pay and change staff terms and conditions.
The proposed changes at the juice maker, which produces supermarket own brand products for Waitrose, Asda and Tesco and works with brands such as Innocent, Del Monte and Ocean Spray, also involve cuts to overtime and bank holiday pay, as well as holiday entitlements.
More than 430 employees at the organisation are involved in the action by trade union Unite.
The eleven 36-hour strikes will occur over 10 weeks starting on 27 January and will be followed by further action on 2, 4, 12, 18 and 27 February, as well as 2, 12, 18, 24 March and 1 April.
A spokesperson at Refresco Gerber said: “Following the merger with Refresco in November 2013, we have undertaken an extensive review of our business, benchmarking our structure, costs and operational efficiencies against the rest of the Refresco Gerber Group and against comparable businesses here in the UK.
“The results show that changes are required to ensure we remain competitive and flexible for the future.
“A fifth of employees in our factory have opted to take industrial action as a result of the necessary changes to terms and conditions, which will take the form of a series of eleven walkouts over a period of 10 weeks commencing on 27 January. The rest of the business will carry on operating as normal and as a result of considered forward planning we believe we will be able to meet our customer obligations.
“We are disappointed that this decision has been reached because we have worked hard to protect pay levels and held positive one-on-one discussions with the team over the last month with 95% accepting the new employment terms. The majority of the workforce just wants to get on with the job in hand.”
Roy Winter, regional general officer at Unite, added: “Loyal staff who have worked hard to make Refresco Gerber Europe’s biggest juice manufacturer feel betrayed by plans to railroad through cuts to their pay, terms and conditions.
“They are angry that their modest working conditions are being torn up in a bid to squeeze every last drop of profit out of them.
“This further attack on their terms and conditions will deepen the daily struggle to make ends meet that a majority of the workforce face.
“The race to the bottom needs to stop. The organisation needs to drop its refusal to negotiate and enter into meaningful talks to avoid the inevitable disruption that prolonged strike action will have on the supply of well-loved household brands.”