Workers at Ardagh Glass, which made $102m in pre-tax profits last year, have rejected a 5.5% two-year pay deal and will go on strike.
Employees at two of the Ardagh Group’s glass companies in Yorkshire and Scotland will start industrial action from Saturday, September 14, after 78% of staff voted against the offer.
“This is a highly profitable company and could well afford to be more generous at a time when inflation is eroding our members’ take home pay and household bills, such as food and energy, continue to soar,” said Tas Sangha, deputy regional secretary for Yorkshire, Unite trade union.
But a spokesman for Ardagh Group told FoodProductionDaily.com it values its employees and currently pays double the UK national living wage.
Workers at the Barnsley, Doncaster and Knottingley sites in Yorkshire will enforce a 24-hour stoppage affecting different shifts between September 14 and 23.
Similarly, the strikes at Irvine in Ayrshire will follow a similar 24-hour pattern on September 16 and 21.
The pay offer that was rejected was 3% between February this year and January 2014 – 2% from February to July and an additional 1% from August 1 - and 2.5% between February 2014 and January 2015.
The package also included a review of ‘committed’ shift patterns, such as a reduction in the amount of hours across all sites.
Employees in Europe
“Our members voted overwhelmingly against the company’s offer and last week Unite and the GMB union asked the company to increase the pay offer – it refused,” added Sangha.
“Furthermore, the employees at two of the Ardagh Group’s glass companies in Europe have received bigger increases than that being offered to our members in the UK.
Employees at both sites voted for strike action and industrial action short of a strike – but industrial action had been suspended while they voted on the pay offer, now rejected.
Room for talks
An Ardagh spokesman said: “We are disappointed by this outcome after engaging positively and meaningfully in extensive talks to resolve the dispute.
"We have already made an increased offer following conciliation with ACAS and have also offered to enter into arbitration talks with an independent third party, but this offer has been rejected by the Trade Unions."
He added this year’s pay offer of 3%, representing an average of 2.51% for the year, is above that of its competitors and above the annual national average increase of 1.1%, as reported by the Office for National Statistics.
"Combining Ardagh’s pay awards of 2011 and 2012 with this year’s offer for a two year deal, represents a total increase of 14.2% over four years," he added.
43 new jobs
“In the past 12 months we have reinvested all our UK profits in projects to improve competitiveness and win new business. In the first six months of 2013, this amounted to £63.5m, which has resulted in 43 new jobs and safeguarded a large number of existing posts.
“We remain open to entering into binding arbitration talks at any time, to reach an agreement.”
Union rep Sangha added Unite’s door is open for further talks before the strike dates but only if the company comes up with a better offer.
Ardagh Glass employs about 1,300 workers. Unite claims the company is set to make $108m pre-tax profits this year.