A planned all-out strike at Hovis’ Boucher Road, Belfast facility has been suspended after the bread manufacturer “significantly improved” its pay offer.

Members of Unite the Union and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) were due to put up pickets at one minute past midnight on Friday 24 January after they failed to receive a 5.1% pay rise from Hovis, instead being offered 3.2%.

However, the company has since increased the offer to 4% meaning the all-out strike has been called off. Instead, Unite will ballot its members on the new offer.

“Strike action is always a last resort for workers and our union. Unfortunately, we were left with no alternative but to proceed with plans for all-out strike action as a result of the total failure of Hovis bosses to take seriously our members’ pay expectations,” said Sean McKeever, Unite regional officer.

“In light of the significantly improved pay offer made by management today [22 January], our team of shop stewards have agreed to suspend the action planned to commence at a minute past midnight on Friday [24 January]. We will now proceed to ballot our members on the offer and are hoping to announce their response and next steps within a week.”

In response, Hovis said: “Unite the Union and the BFAWU have taken the decision to suspend the strike scheduled for 24 January 2020 following a new pay offer proposed by Hovis Ireland. Both Unions will ballot their members on this new offer over the next couple of days. We will continue to monitor the situation carefully and will provide an update in due course.”

Unite is also in the process of balloting members at Allied Bakeries. The company has been in discussions with some of its employees about pay increases since mid-October.