Workers at a Nestlé chocolate products plant in Canada have gone on strike in a row over their pension provisions.

Trade union Unifor said 461 of its members at the Nestlé factory in Toronto downed tools on Sunday (5 May) over a “lack of improvements to pensions”. Also at issue is the time it takes workers to get to the top rate of pay.

Striking workers include machine operators, bar packers, shippers and receivers, and general labourers.

The Sterling Road factory manufactures confectionery brands KitKat, Aero, Coffee Crisp and Smarties.

Unifor national president Lana Payne said: “Nestlé workers in the past have gone on strike over pension contributions and, again, it’s at the crux of this dispute.

“Retirement security is very important to our members and you throw an affordability crisis on top of that, and it’s no wonder our members are determined to fight here.

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“As one of the biggest food and beverage manufacturers in the world, the company has a responsibility to make sure workers can have a decent income during these challenging economic times.”

Local Unifor president Eamonn Clarke added: “Members were not satisfied with the lack of improvements to pensions and a two-year COLA [Cost of Living Adjustment] freeze. Our union will stand with our members as they continue to fight for a fair deal that shows them the respect they deserve.”

Unifor said it does not have any planned negotiation dates with Switzerland-based Nestlé, the world’s largest food business.

Responding to the strike in a statement sent to Just Food, Nestlé Canada said there had been “extensive” contract discussions in recent weeks with Unifor and a tentative agreement had been reached.

“We’re proud of the package that we presented, and the union recommended to their members. We are disappointed with the membership’s decision,” a company spokesperson said.

“Nestlé Canada’s priority is to work with the union to achieve a collective agreement that ensures that operations at our Toronto plant remain competitive in an increasingly challenging marketplace. Our goal is to have employees back at work.”

Nestlé said it did not anticipate the strike having any immediate effect on the availability of its product on retail shelves.