Published: 15/12/2010

Nearly 1200 Heinz workers will stop production at the food giant Heinz’s flagship UK plant near Wigan just before 10pm (tonight) in protest at the lousy pay deal on offer from the vastly profitable company.

Despite weeks of effort by the workers’ union, Unite, to get the company to improve on their two year below inflation offer, Heinz’s refusal to budge means that strike action looks inevitable.

Discontinuous strike action will begin, today, Wednesday, 15 December at 21:50 hours and continue until Thursday, 16 December 2010 at 21:50 hours. This is in addition to the continuous action involving a ban on overtime and workers adhering strictly to their contracts, which began yesterday, Tuesday, 14 December.

The Kitt Green stoppage is expected to mean approximately two million fewer cans of meal-time favourites such as Heinz tinned beans and soups will be produced during every day of the dispute.

Calling on Heinz’s management to see sense, Jennie Formby, Unite national officer for food and drink, said: “Yesterday we had absolute proof that living in this country is getting more expensive. Inflation leapt by 4.7 percent, fuel is staggeringly expensive but hard to sacrifice during this harsh winter and with the VAT rise coming around the corner in the New Year, it is getting extremely difficult to make ends meet.

“But Heinz is rolling in cash – its margins climbed to 37 percent last year, more than good enough for them to continue to give massive rewards to shareholders and senior executives. They are simply using this economic downturn to squeeze more from a loyal workforce.

“This tight-fistedness will backfire. The size of the vote in favour of taking action to defend their wages shows the strength of feeling. This workforce is determined to be treated with the respect they have earned.”

Action by the workers is expected to be well supported as around 90 percent of workers who took part in the ballot voted in favour of strike action, with over 95 percent for action short of strike – a clear rejection of the company’s 3.3 percent pay offer this year followed by a capped 3 percent for next year.

Unite says that further strike action may soon be announced for next week and over the Christmas period. The union however reiterated to Heinz’s management that the situation could still be retrieved through talks.