Cadbury faced worker protests outside four of its UK plants today (29 July) over an ongoing pay dispute with employees.

The demonstrations, held at Cadbury’s Bournville, Chirk, Marlbrook and Somerdale plants, were timed to coincide with the release of Cadbury’s first-half results, which saw underlying operating profit jump 19%.

A union official told just-food that the company was facing industrial action because of its failure to adhere to a pay deal that was agreed with the workers at the four sites three years ago.

Cadbury had agreed a pay increase of RPI plus 0.5% with the workforce, with a minimum of 2% hike for 2009, union officials said.

However, as RPI in February was 0% the company is instead imposing a deal of 0.5% this year, Unison added.

A spokesperson for Cadbury disputed these details, suggesting that there was “never” a 2% minimum increase agreement.

The spokesperson emphasised that the company had frozen the pay of all clerical and management staff this year in response to the “economic uncertainty ahead”.

“The only exception was our factory staff and we feel that, given the very low rate of inflation, our pay increase which was agreed in 2007 is very fair in the current economic climate. We have not gone back on any deal,” the spokesperson insisted.

Earlier this month, the 1,300 Cadbury workers who are Unite members began to vote over whether to take industrial action against the UK confectionery giant.

The union insisted that, should it push ahead with industrial action, supplies of popular chocolate products, including Wispa, Crunchie, Dairy Milk and Creme Egg could be hit.

However, Cadbury also denied that it would have difficulty meeting current levels of supply, were a strike occur.

“As far as the wider public and retail trade are concerned we are confident they will se no impact on supply – this is a issue around pay structures not supply,” the spokesperson said.