Up to 200 workers at UK brewer and pub chain operator Greene King are to strike over the Christmas period in a dispute over pay.
Workers including production and distribution staff, drivers and draymen will down tools between 21 December and 23 December, according to union Unite. A further four days of strike action are planned between 28 December and 31 December.
The dispute relates to a 3% pay increase offer from Greene King, which has been rejected by Unite. General secretary Sharon Graham said the 3% increase – which would be accompanied by a one-off payment of GBP650 (US$791) – represented a “pay cut dressed up as a pay rise” due to high inflation.
She said: “Greene King’s ultimate owners are the Hong Kong conglomerate CK Hutchison Group. They are incredibly wealthy so Greene King workers should be paid fairly. Instead, workers are being offered a pay cut dressed up as a pay rise.
“Unite members at Greene King will receive the union’s complete and total support throughout their dispute. Greene King management need to return to the negotiating table with a substantially improved pay offer.”
The union warned that staff shortages at Greene King’s Bury St Edmunds, Nottinghamshire, and Abingdon, Oxfordshire, sites could lead to beer shortages over the festive period.
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Unite regional officer Mark Jaina said: “The strike action means popular beers like Old Speckled Hen could run out this Christmas and New Year but this dispute is entirely down Greene King’s refusal to make a fair pay offer.”
Unite claimed 188 workers would strike across the two Nottinghamshire and Oxfordshire sites. Greene King, however, said that only 56% of Unite’s members voted in favour of strike action, and that deliveries would continue.
A Greene King spokesperson said: “The majority of our brewing and distribution teams have continued to work and we are incredibly grateful for their hard work and commitment, which has meant disruption has been kept to a minimum.
“We’ve met regularly with members of Unite over the past few months since the pay rise offer in May and explained how we aim to be fair and consistent across our business, given the challenging wider economic environment currently.”
The spokesperson continued: “We are disappointed Unite has not come back to us with sustainable options to discuss and a minority is attempting to disrupt deliveries to pubs.
“We have robust contingency plans in place so that pubs continue receiving deliveries from us across Christmas and beyond, at a time when pubs need all the support they can get ahead of what looks like an incredibly challenging January and February.”
In June, Greene King was forced to shelve plans to sell pints for GBP0.06p (US$0.07) after a proposed promotion to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee was outlawed.
The discount was originally planned at 408 Greene King venues – with the price reflecting what a pint of beer would have cost at the time of the Queen’s coronation in 1952.
However, the promotion was cancelled after the brewer discovered it would have been in contravention of the UK Licensing Act, which forbids the sale of alcohol for less than the price of duty plus value added tax (VAT).