Kingsmill bakery strike to threaten Christmas deliveries

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Kingsmill bakery workers vote 82% to go on strike. Picture: Kingsmill.
Kingsmill bakery workers vote 82% to go on strike. Picture: Kingsmill.

Related tags Trade union Strike action

Kingsmill bakery drivers, maintenance staff and security personal have voted 82% to go on strike, says trade union Unite.

The announcement comes after a row over pay, which Unite claims is lower than the current rate of inflation and does not reflect the cost of living.

'Increasingly frustrated'

Unite says the workers, who supply Kingsmill bread to Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco across the Midlands and the North West, have grown "increasingly frustrated" with the firm since pay talks started in May. 

“Our drivers, maintenance staff and security personnel at the Kingsmill bakery in West Bromwich voted by 82% for strike action which is an overwhelming mandate for Unite’s stance,” ​said Joe Clarke, lead officer for the food sector, Unite.​ 

“Following the result, we have had initial discussions with the company about further talks with senior executives to resolve the pay issues. 

“We are waiting to hear back from the company on possible dates for new talks. There are differences between us over market pay rates and the cost of living which need to be resolved.”​ 

Clarke said its 130 members were offered a 2% pay rise, plus £150 for the year starting April 2017 and the same offer for the year starting April 2018, which ‘is completely unacceptable’, as the CPI inflation rate for October was 3%.

Unite says Kingsmill drivers earn between £26,000 and £28,000-a-year, while drivers employed by Sainsbury’s are on £42,000 and those working for food delivery giant Culina take home £33,000.

“We look forward to constructive talks with the company to resolve this dispute, but reserve the right to take strike action, if a new offer is not forthcoming,” ​he added. 

'Bread drought'

Following a £25m investment, completed three years ago, Allied Bakeries' site in West Bromwich is its biggest UK bakery and employs around 400 people in total.

The strike could result in a pre-Christmas ‘bread drought’ across the Midlands and North West because the Birmingham Road site produces 1.5 million loaves a week, as well as rolls and muffins.

But Kingsmill owner Allied Bakeries claims it has plans in place if strike action does take place.

“We’re disappointed that our delivery drivers at Allied Bakeries West Bromwich site have voted in favour of taking industrial action,” the firm said in a statement. 

“Over the past 10 years the pay settlements agreed at our West Bromwich site have averaged 2.4%. This amount is over the CPI rate of inflation for the same period and consistent with our long-term commitment to paying a fair wage while ensuring safe and decent working conditions for all our employees. 

“The current offer we are making to our delivery drivers at West Bromwich is comparable to that which has been accepted by all our other delivery drivers across the UK. It’s in line with the local market benchmark and above the amount many commercial vehicle drivers across the country will receive. 

“We remain committed to trying to resolve this situation amicably and are open to further discussion with our employees at any time. Should industrial action go ahead, we have robust plans in place and do not expect to see any disruption to bread supply for either our customers or shoppers."

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