Heinz today (7 December) admitted it was “disappointed” that staff at the company’s flagship UK site have voted to strike over pay – and insisted the group’s offer was one of the best in the sector.

Workers at the ketchup maker’s flagship facility in Wigan have voted for industrial action after rejected the company’s offer to increase pay by 3.3%.

Union officials have hit out at the “below-inflation” pay increase and Heinz’s offer of a 3% increase next year.

However, Heinz told just-food that its immediate offer equated to a 4% increase as it included a GBP200 supplementary payment.

The baked beans firm said the proposals also included an “annual non performance-related fixed payment of two weeks basic pay” and “significant improvements” to the company’s healthcare scheme.

“The outcome of the ballot for industrial action is very disappointing,” Heinz said. “[The offer] is well above the UK average weekly earnings which are increasing by 1.7%, and remains a very fair offer. As a package it stands out as one of the best in the food and drink sector, the area and the country.”

The Unite union has called for Heinz to enter into negotiations. The company has indicated that it is willing to return to the table but appears to be preparing for the impact of the strike. A 24-hour stoppage is expected to take place next week.

“We are maintaining an open communication channel with Unite via the site union representatives with a view to resolving the dispute but the industrial action planned will leave many totally perplexed,” Heinz said.

“We anticipate that supplies all our famous varieties, including Heinz Beanz and soups, will be unaffected by the industrial action since we have already taken steps to manage stock levels to ensure consumers are not disappointed.”

Speaking to just-food earlier today, Unite national officer Jennie Formby said there was “disenchantment” at the Heinz facility over issues including pay and the bonus scheme awarded to management.

Formby also said Heinz workers at the Wigan site had complained about the “hard-faced” attitude of management. Staff said it compared unfavourably to the “paternalistic” nature of previous management.

A spokesman for Heinz UK & Ireland declined to comment further.