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Heinz factory staff to take strike action over pay conditions

SHOPS could end up running out of Heinz baked beans as factory workers prepare to take strike action over pay conditions.

Trade union Unite said its members would not be bullied by “Eb-Bean-ezer” bosses at the company, which produces soups, pasta meals and baby food at the Wigan-based factory.

Almost 90 per cent of the 1,200 employees who took part in the ballot voted in favour of strike action after being offered a below-inflation 3.3 per cent pay increase.

The union is to hold a meeting this weekend to discuss their next move.

Unite is urging Heinz management to return to the negotiating table with a fairer offer in a final attempt to settle the dispute and avoid industrial action.

Jennie Formby, Unite national officer for food, drink and tobacco, said: “The factory makes millions of units of these products every day and they could quickly diminish if management staff don’t step in quickly and do something about it.

“Our members do not want to take strike action but have been left with no choice because they will not allow Heinz management to bully or fool its workforce into accepting its version of a ‘fair’ pay deal.”

She said one member of the company’s senior management team had openly boasted about receiving a 15 per cent bonus this year, whilst ordinary workers received less than four per cent.

Ms Formby said: “Workers at the factory feel completely let down by Heinz management.

“They want the opportunity to voice their anger at the way they are being treated and strike action will make the company listen.

“Heinz is no way suffering during the recession, with climbing profits and management flaunting massive bonuses in our members faces, its loyal workforce are told to take a below inflation pay deal for two years – a pay cut in real terms.

“It’s time Heinz stopped using ‘Eb-Bean-ezer Scrooge’ like tactics and rewarded its loyal employees with a fair and decent pay offer.

“Our door is always open for fresh talks to resolve the dispute.

“We will reveal the date and proposed length of the strike after out mass meeting this coming Saturday.”

A spokesperson for Heinz said: “The outcome of the ballot for industrial action is very disappointing.

“This is particularly so when the final offer we have made in real terms equates to a 4 per cent increase in year one with up to 3 per cent next year, and includes an annual non-performance related fixed payment of two weeks basic pay, plus significant improvements to the healthcare scheme.

“This is well above the UK average weekly earnings which are increasing by 1.7 per cent, and remains a very fair offer.

“As a package it stands out as one of the best in the food and drink sector, the area and the country.

“We are maintaining an open communication channel with Unite via the site Union representatives with a view to resolving the dispute but the industrial action planned will leave many totally perplexed.

“We anticipate that supplies all our famous varieties, including Heinz Beanz and Soups, will be unaffected by the industrial action since we have already taken steps to manage stock levels to ensure consumers are not disappointed.”

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