350-strong workforce has seen a pay freeze and sub-inflation increases since 2009 take-over by Europe’s largest meat processing company
Unite members at the food firm Vion in Cambuslang near Glasgow have walked out in the first in a series of strikes over pay.
The union says an average wage at the chicken-processing plant is around £7.00 per hour.
The site is one of around 40 around the UK owned by Vion NV, the Netherlands-based multi-national and the largest meat processing company in Europe, which had a €8.9bn turnover in 2011.
Officials say the action has been ‘very successful and well supported’, with around 80 workers braving freezing rain and strong winds on picket lines since before dawn.
“It’s as much about sending a message to management, as it is about having a physical effect on the output,” one of the strikers told UnionNews.
The Cambuslang site secured multi-million pound investment from the Scottish government and other official agencies to expand production in 2010, following a take-over.
Since then, Unite says the 350-strong workforce has endured a one-year pay freeze and subsequent pay rises of only 2% which have not kept pace with inflation running at 5%.
The plant was bought from Grampian Country Foods by Vion in 2009. It has been one of the largest employers in the area for some 25 years, supplying household name brands such as M+S and the Co-Op.
A Unite spokesman said: “You can’t keep asking workers, year on year to accept attacks on their terms and conditions – they are going to fight back and rightly so.
“We are talking about the 4th largest meat processor in the world. We had hoped the company would see sense and come up with a improved offer but they have dug their heels in. The door remains open for them but if they don’t grasp the opportunity then there will be an escalation of the dispute”.
Local politicians have called on the company to work constructively with the union to resolve the dispute.
The union may target future action to coincide with the start of major new contracts, such as an estimated £20m deal with the Co-Op, due to begin in April.
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