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Newark: Workers at British Sugar factories could strike next month

A union is to ballot workers at British Sugar factories, including Newark, over strike action in response to a pay dispute.

The UK's leading union Unite the Union said 86% of its 500 members in factories in Newark, Suffolk and Norfolk rejected a 2% pay offer by British Sugar.

The result of the consultative ballot of technicians, engineers and supply chain operatives at the factories led Unite to launch a ballot for strike action.

British Sugar. (48736860)
British Sugar. (48736860)

This opens on July 5 and closes July 26.

The union said its members are angry the company pledged to implement a reasonable pay rise when it returned to profitability following their acceptance of a 1% increase in 2019, when British Sugar was struggling financially.

It said the total 2% increase would add up to around £500,000.

"Its financial records show it made pre-tax profits of £55 million in the year up to August 2020, with a similar profit estimated for this year," said Unite.

"British Sugar’s latest financial returns shows that director’s pay increased by 46% from £819,405 to £1,198,031, a total of £378,626, while the total pay for all the company’s directors increased from £2m to £2.6m."

Unite regional officer Mark Plumb said: “The backdrop of broken pay promises, extravagant executive remuneration and British Sugar’s take it or leave attitude to negotiations means that this dispute could turn sour very quickly.

“Our members feelings are running high and coordinated strikes at every one of British Sugar’s processing factories during the UK’s sugar beat harvest could cause real problems for the company’s operations and across its supply chain.

“British Sugar is operating at a profit and can clearly afford massive pay rises for top staff. This dispute can be resolved quickly and amicably if British Sugar improves on its not so sweet pay offer.”

A British Sugar spokesman said: “We are in active negotiations with Unite to reach agreement on our pay offer for our factory based people.

"We are therefore disappointed that the union is talking about strike action and the communication today contains a number of inaccuracies. We are confident we will reach an agreement that works for all in the coming weeks.”

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