Workers at a Browns Food Group meat factory in the UK have started strike action over pay.
Unite, the union representing staff at the meat plant in Dumfriesshire in Scotland, said around 180 members voted for industrial action.
The union said its members among Browns’ production, distribution and maintenance staff rejected a pay offer from the company that “equals the real living wage of £10.90 ($13.75) an hour”.
The workers at the Kelloholm site will participate in three days of action over a period of three consecutive weeks. The first round begins today and ends on 31 August. An overtime ban is also in effect until 18 September.
“Our members have no option but to take strike action because what’s currently on the table from Browns does nothing to help them make ends meet,” Unite industrial officer Paul Bennett said. “The company is in a very healthy financial position due to the hard work of our members, so it’s scandalous that they are treating the workforce with such contempt. Strike action will take place over a number of weeks and Browns should be under no illusion as to the determination of our members to secure a fair pay deal.”
The meat processor said in a statement the union had made an “unrealistic request” for a 33% increase on a base wage of £9.75 to £13.00 per hour.
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Browns Food Group said it had put forward “numerous” offers over the last six months, culminating in the £10.90 per hour proposal. The company said that offer represented an 11.8% increase. “This is in effect a minimum of £,2093 per year increase based on 35 hours per week,” Browns Food Group said.
The company said it had agreed to backdate the pay rise to 1 April 2023. “Disappointingly, when this has been put forward to ballot by the union, a majority of the members voted to reject it and industrial action has commenced,” it added. “The disruption this will cause will inevitably have consequences for the business, employees and customer base.”
Sharon Graham, Unite’s general secretary, added: “The Browns Food Group, which owns the Kelloholm factory, is cash-rich. It can well afford to give its workers a far bigger slice of the tens of millions it has sitting in the bank.”
Family-controlled Browns Food Group purchased the 150,000 sq ft cooked meat factory in Kelloholm in 2014.
According to the company’s website, it operates from seven manufacturing sites, supplying meat and salmon.
In February, Browns Food Group filed its accounts for 2021 with Companies House.
The company generated revenue of £167.6m, up 4.3% on 2020. It booked a 1.9% increase in pre-tax profit to £10.9m. Profit was £9.1m, compared to £7.5m a year earlier.
In 2022, Browns Food Group bought Scotland-based Quality Pork Processors, John Robertson & Sons Hamcurers and Robertsons Fine Foods for a combined £5m.