A strike is set to take place at a UK Suntory Beverage & Food (SBF) facility next week due to a pay dispute.
Around 180 workers will strike on Monday (5 February) at the site in Coleford, Gloucestershire, according to trade union Unite.
SBF reportedly gave workers a two-year pay deal effective from 1 April 2022, with a commitment from the employer to review the second year’s increase, should inflation exceed 5% between January to June 2023, Unite stated.
The UK’s inflation rate reached 7.9% last June, and at no point dropped below 5% during that six-month period.
“Suntory is awash with cash and it is reprehensible that it has failed to give our members a fair pay increase,” Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said.
“Unite does what it says on the trade union tin and always puts the jobs, pay and conditions of its members first. The workers at Suntory have Unite’s complete support.”
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Karl Ottomar, supply chain director at SBF‘s Great Britain and Ireland business, said the company is “in active discussions with our trade union and our employee representatives to secure a fair and positive outcome for everyone”.
“While we have been notified of a one-week strike at our manufacturing site beginning 5th February 2024, we hope to reach an agreement shortly so that we can focus our energy on looking forward.
“Our current remuneration package makes us a very competitive employer in the region. The employees taking part have received two pay increases in addition to a one-off additional payment since 2022 in recognition of their work and to support with the cost-of-living crisis,” he stated.
The statement also noted that the Coleford site received a £13m ($16.6m) investment for a new bottling line in 2020. It is SBF‘s only UK site and produces Lucozade Energy, Lucozade Sport and Ribena brands.
The facility has a production capacity of circa one billion drinks per year, with over 300 employees working at the site, from head office to production and engineering.
Unite said this is the first strike at the Coleford site for around 50 years. It added that the action could “could swiftly lead to shortages of Lucozade and Ribena”.
The union’s regional officer Michael Hobbs added: “The strike action will inevitably result in shortages of consumers‘ favourite drinks but Suntory has brought this strike on itself due to its unreasonable actions.
“Our members have been pushed to their limit because of the continuous disrespect shown by Suntory and its inability to address the current impact of the cost-of-living crisis on its workers.”