Greene King workers threaten strike action as sale finalises

UK brewer Greene King has rejoined the British Beer & Pub Association at the same time as its sale to a Hong Kong property tycoon was approved, leading to fears over closures and loss of jobs.

The Suffolk-based brewer left the BBPA 10 years ago but has returned to the fold with CEO Nick Mackenzie has been invited to sit on the board of the trade association.

Outgoing BBPA chief executive, Brigid Simmonds, said she was “delighted” to have Greene King return to the association. “As passionate supporters of the beer and pub trade, I know Greene King will play a key role in helping us campaign for the wellbeing of the sector.”

Mackenzie added that: “As a leading British pub company and brewer we are keen to play an active role championing the industry, promoting its unique role in communities across the country. We are looking forward to working with the BBPA and its members to support its important work on the many challenges facing the sector and ensure it has a bright future.”

Meanwhile, Greene King’s £4.6 billion takeover by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-Shing’s CK Asset was approved by shareholders; triggering fears about pub closures and a pay dispute with workers.

As reported in The Telegraph, most of Greene King’s almost 3,000 pubs are freehold and this has raised fears that CK Asset may be more interested in selling off prime locations or converting properties to other uses rather than running a pub chain.

Toby Perkins, MP and chairman of the All Party Pub Group has reportedly said he will request a meeting with CK Asset to “scrutinise their plans”.

He told The Telegraph: “If there is any sense that this is an asset strip rather than a business looking to expand Greene King’s estate then we would put considerable pressure on local authorities not to allow these assets to be sold.”

Furthermore, the Unite union has warned of a ballot to decide on strike action after a “paltry” pay offer was offered to workers at sites in Bury St Edmunds, Abingdon and Eastwood.

A statement from Unite regional officer, Mark Jaina, said: “Our members are fed up with being palmed off with a paltry two per cent rise which has been the norm for the last six or seven years.

“That figure is way below the soaring cost of living and, as a result, our members have seen a serious erosion of their incomes in real terms during that period.

“We are also seeking further clarity on future job security now that the takeover has been overwhelmingly approved by Greene King shareholders.

“We have had two meetings with management since the takeover was revealed in August, but the information disclosed, so far, is scanty, despite media reports that pub closures could be on the cards.”

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