An all-out strike by workers at Allied Bakeries’ factory on Castlereagh Road, Belfast, is set to begin at 6am on Sunday 16 February after ‘last ditch’ talks over pay broke down.
Staff are seeking a 5% pay increase and voted to strike after the company offered 2.2% instead.
Negotiations followed, with Allied upping the offer to a 2.5% increase. However this has been branded as "pathetic" by Sean McKeever, regional officer for Unite the Union, who confirmed members were now preparing to strike.
“Unite made ourselves available to Allied Bakeries and sought to engage positively in last-ditch pay talks, called at the request of management. Unfortunately, the company did not appear to be serious when it came to addressing their workers’ demands and offered a pathetic pay offer that the shop stewards rejected as unacceptable. The meeting was a very short one,” McKeever said.
“Our shop stewards are now collecting flags and placards for the all-out strike action, which is now set to commence from 6am on Sunday; they are resolutely determined to win a fair pay increase.”
The union added that the strike action “will cripple production and supply of pancakes” across the UK ahead of pancake day on Tuesday 25 February.
“The strike action is set to coincide with the ramp-up in production of pancakes at the Castlereagh Road site. Management bears full responsibility for what will be a hugely disruptive strike action coming in the key production period for the UK the fortnight before Pancake Tuesday,” he added.
A spokesperson for Allied Bakeries maintained that the manufacturer had contingency plans in place and did not anticipate that supply of the core Kingsmill and Sunblest pancakes would be significantly impacted by the strike action.
With regards to pay, Allied added that: “All those involved within this ballot are paid at rates above The Living Wage Foundation’s recommended UK hourly rate and provided with a range of in-work benefits, including life insurance and pension provision that, for some long-serving colleagues is based upon their final salary.
“We remain committed to engaging with our employees and their representatives to resolve this dispute."
Unite said it remained “open to engagement” in advance of pickets going up.
The action comes after Hovis workers at the Boucher Road site in Belfast voted to end industrial action after the company offered them a 4% pay increase.
McKeever said there was no reason Allied couldn’t deliver a similar uplift of pay to its workers.