Greene King staff plan strike action over ‘paltry’ pay rise

Employees of UK pub and brewing business Greene King have announced a series of strikes over the first half of 2020 over pay rises that have not kept up with inflation.

160 delivery drivers, draymen, brewery production staff and warehouse workers at the company’s headquarters in Bury St Edmunds will walk out on 12 and 13 March, with some not returning to work until after 14 March. A further 12 strikes have been planned, but the dates will be revealed later in the year.

Employees at distribution centres in Abingdon, Oxfordshire and Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, are also set to join the strike action.

Staff have decided to strike over “years of 2% pay rises that failed to reflect the soaring cost of living”, according to a statement from Unite.

Strike action had been threatened back in October by workers at sites in Bury St Edmunds, Abingdon and Eastwood when discussions were on-going over a 2% pay rise that the workers’ union dismissed as “paltry”.

Unite regional officer Mark Jaina said pay negotiations have “dragged on for months with a hardline management being blinkered as to the ever-rising cost of living that our members have endured for several years.”

He said the summer strikes would hopefully send “a strong message to the bosses that our members are serious about rectifying this pay injustice.”

“This strike could lead to the severe disruption in supplies to pubs, clubs and restaurants and some drinkers could face a beer drought as a result.”

The Suffolk-based brewer was bought last August by Hong Kong property tycoon Li Ka Shing, which has raised fears of layoffs and pub closures.

Jaina said: “There is a window of opportunity before the first strikes next month and we urge the management to take this opportunity for them to get around the table and negotiate in a constructive fashion to resolve this dispute.”

A Greene King spokesperson said: “We remain disappointed that the union has encouraged its members to reject our pay offer for its members, as well as a number of other benefits, and pursue this course of action. Our pay rise offer is fair and consistent across the brewing division, especially given the challenging wider economic environment.

The strikes will affect three out of 15 depots across the country.

Greene King said there are contingency plans in place to minimise disruption “and we will be working closely with our customers to communicate and implement these over the coming two weeks.

“Union members account for fewer than 170 people out of 800 in our brewery workforce, which means we will still have a majority of non-union members working. We would like to thank them and our customers for their loyalty and support during this period.”

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