Workers at Ireland-based Kerry Group are to stop work for one day on 30 January in a row over proposed changes to terms and conditions of employment centred on the production of the firm’s Cheestrings product.

Members of the Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) at Kerry’s plants in Charleville, Co. Cork, voted by a margin of 94% in favour of taking industrial action after company bosses withdrew from talks with Ireland’s independent Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

SIPTU organiser Terry Bryan said the dispute centred on proposed changes to shift patterns and terms, job rotation and appointments. He said the stoppage could be avoided “if the company complies with its agreed dispute resolution procedures” and attends a proposed WRC meeting.

However, a Kerry spokesman told just-food today (26 January) the company had introduced new work practices “across all departments on site” over the past year, with the exception of the area responsible for Cheestrings production.

The spokesperson said: “We have grown our Cheestrings business and we require some change programme in order to introduce the service level we require, but despite our best efforts we have failed to get agreement in this department. Our business is in a competitive area where we are growing our geographic and customer base and we need the new work practices in order to meet requirements. We have engaged relentlessly with the employees and their representatives over the past 12 months to no effect. We have had 11 local meetings, seven meetings with the WRC and one meeting with the Labour Court. We felt that to continue in that process was not going to resolve the matter.”  

The spokesperson said Kerry’s management would “do what it can” to maintain production during the stoppage and would “continue to make every effort to resolve this matter”. 

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Kerry, which also owns Mattessons, said in November it had “maintained the business momentum” in its third quarter, reporting higher volumes and improving margins for the first nine months of the year. The company said its consumer foods division maintained good growth in its selected mainland European markets and in the fast growing e-tail channel.