Bakkavor under fire as 700 workers vote to strike over pay

Bakkavor has come under fire from Union bosses after over 700 workers voted to strike in a dispute over pay.

Hundreds of employees at the fresh food producer’s manufacturing facility in Spalding will walk out on 25 November after members “overwhelmingly” rejected a 6.5% pay offer – effectively a real-terms pay cut given the UK’s soaring rate of inflation.

Many of the workers earn just 1p over the national minimum wage with some being forced to use food banks.

Despite reporting adjusted operating profits of £102m for 2021 – an increase of 22% – Bakkavor said it had been forced to take action “to adapt to the challenging macro-economic backdrop.”

The industrial action, which will last until 2 January, is expected to affect own brand food products for Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and M&S.

Unite said further strikes would be scheduled if the dispute is not resolved.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The situation these workers face is exactly what is wrong with Britain’s economy today: A company earning millions and millions in profits expecting already low paid workers to take a pay cut while prices soar. Unite will not tolerate attacks on our members’ jobs, pay or conditions and our Bakkavor members have the union’s complete backing as they strike for a better deal.”

The news comes just days after Bakkavor announced it was planning to close its manufacturing facilities in Leicester and Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire, putting 900 jobs at risk.

A spokesperson for the company told “Bakkavor can confirm that following a ballot of its members the Unite union has rejected the proposed 6.5% pay increase and will move to take strike action at Bakkavor’s Spalding site. Around half of Bakkavor’s colleagues at Spalding are members of the union.

“We have detailed contingency plans in place to ensure that we continue to serve our customers and that any disruption is kept to a minimum.

“Across its UK sites, Bakkavor has been awarding pay increases for colleagues – a move to support its people despite the challenging economic context for the sector. Bakkavor believes its proposed 6.5% pay award for colleagues in Spalding is positive and sustainable and is part of a broader package of employee benefits.

“Bakkavor’s proposed pay offer ensures we remain competitive in the local market at a time when current trading conditions are causing significant levels of inflation across its cost base.”

They added that the firm was “very disappointed” the Union was planning to go ahead with strike action.

Unite’s regional officer Ravinder Assi said Bakkavor was treating its workers “disgracefully.”

He said: “Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and M&S all have a case to answer if they do not pressure Bakkavor to use some of its massive profits to give these workers a proper pay rise. Supermarket customers will be appalled to know that the own-brand goods they are buying are made by supply chain workers who are being treated so disgracefully. Bakkavor can well afford to put forward an offer our members can accept and needs to do so.”