Unite members at the food firm Vion in Cambuslang (near Glasgow) will walk out on 20th February in the first in a series of walkouts planned in a dispute over terms and conditions. The workers voted massively in favour of industrial action in an official ballot where 92% of members voted for strike action with 94% voting in favour of action short of strike on a 72% turnout.
The site is one of approximately 40 UK sites employing 12,500 workers owned by Vion NV, a Netherlands-based multinational who are the largest meat processing company in Europe and the 4th largest in the world as measured by 2010 sales. In its 2010 accounts the company reported that it employed almost 27,000 workers worldwide and had an 8.9 billion Euro turnover.
The workers at Cambuslang have been in dispute with the company since their October anniversary date following an offer from the company of a 2% increase plus some improvements in holidays. At the same time The Scotsman newspaper reported that the UK business had tripled its profits the previous year.
The 2% offer is in real terms a pay cut for the workers with RPI (retail price index) having been around 5% for the previous year. It mirrors the 2% reluctantly accepted the previous year, again when RPI was at 5%, and follows a pay freeze the year before.
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 here. The average wage at Cambuslang is approximately £7 per hour, it’s not intensive wages but it is intensive labour and the workers deserve to be fairly rewarded for their labour. 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”.
With the company showing no signs of moving to resolve the dispute, the strike is likely to intensify with further strike dates set to be named targetting key production periods over the next three months. Other Unite branches within the meat sector have sent messages of solidarity and have pledged further support if a resolution is not swiftly reached.
Reported by Scot Walker, UNITE