More than 90 workers employed by corrugated packaging producer Cepac based in Darlington have begun four weeks of strike action as of this week over pay and conditions.
Strike action started yesterday (Monday 14 August) and will continue until Monday 11 September. Clients likely to be affected by packaging shortages caused by the strikes include Greggs, Costa, Subway, Pret, Aldi, Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Mars, Carlsberg, Innocent Drinks, Pernod, Lidl, Sainsbury and Diageo.
Cepac stated that it previously offered pay awards that range from 8% to 17.5% dependent upon individual roles as it aims to transform the business to become a “profitable centre of excellence”. However, workers rejected this offer, as they argued that the business was changing working conditions to include longer hours, lower overtime rates and a change in shift patterns.
Trade union Unite postponed previous planned strikes to hold further talks and seek an agreement.
Steve Moss, group managing director at Cepac, said: “Cepac has continued to present alternative and improved offers to Unite who have failed to fully and realistically engage on these offers. Along with the generous pay awards offered, Cepac is seeking to make some minor changes to terms and conditions, including a small increase in working hours for some employees. These changes are an essential part of the plan to increase productivity to ensure future growth and investment at Darlington.
“It is sad that Unite seem unable to engage positively to ensure the future of the employees at the Darlington site. We will still seek to commit investment, develop the business and protect livelihoods, given a willingness to co-operate on the part of the union.”
Sharon Graham, general secretary at Unite, added: “Cepac’s pay offer has more strings attached than an orchestra, there is no way our members will accept worse conditions. This is a wealthy firm that can fully afford to make a fair pay offer.”