Hundreds of workers at Europe’s biggest soft drinks plant in Wakefield have announced a two-week strike in June over a real terms pay cut. Unite, the union that represents the workers at Coca Cola, Sprite and Fanta in Wakefield, warned that the industrial action could affect supplies throughout the country.
In a statement, Unite said their employers, Coca Cola Europacific Partner’s offers a real terms pay cut whilst profits rise 37% to £1.85 billion when “business is booming is nothing short of corporate greed.” The workers are now planning 14 days of strikes between June 8 and June 22.
Unite said 87% have voted in favour of industrial action by a margin of 87% in protest over a pay offer which it said “does nothing to address the cost of living crisis.” It added: “This is after CCEP generated revenues over £15 billion (17 billion Euros) combined with an operating profit of £1.85 billion (2.1 billion Euros).”
“The CCEP wage deal across different grades amounts to an average 6% increase. That’s gone ‘flat’ with the workers when inflation (RPI) is still booming.”
Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham said: “Coca Cola Europacific Partners is making profits in the billions but it’s delivering a pay cut to the very workers who are making them.
“Its profits are up 37% to an astronomical £1.85 billion. Offering workers a real terms pay cut when business is booming is nothing short of corporate greed. The workforce are rightly furious at the company’s profiteering. The workers at Wakefield have Unite’s total support.”
Unite regional officer Chris Rawlinson said: “Coca Cola’s pay offer has fallen flat. The vast majority of the workforce have joined Unite to fight for fair pay. Now a series of strikes will inevitably shut down the production of Britain’s favourite soft drinks, including Coca-Cola.
“But Industrial action can still be avoided at Europe’s biggest soft drinks plant if bosses realise that they must pay workers a fair wage from the company’s enormous profits.”
CCEP Wakefield can produce 360,000 cans per hour, and 132,000 bottles per hour. CCEP’s products include; Coca Cola, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Dr Pepper, Fanta, Fanta Lemon, Fanta Fruit Twist, Sprite, Monster and Relentless. The plant also produces Schweppes: Tonic, Diet Tonic, Bitter Lemon, Ginger Ale and Lemonade.
In response to the strike announcement, a CCEP spokesperson said: “In the current economic climate, we believe the pay rises that we are offering are very competitive within the market place. We also provide substantial additional benefits and bonuses to our colleagues, altogether this is an average total package of £46,900 for a colleague at Wakefield.
“We have also made a £1,000 payment to all frontline colleagues in the past twelve months to support the current cost of living challenges. Our competitive rewards package includes our share save scheme and an opportunity to purchase additional days holiday. Almost 80% of our Wakefield colleagues invest in that scheme and benefit from our ongoing success as a business and 75% purchase additional holidays.”
“We have a strong track record of supporting colleagues at our Wakefield site, allowing them to build their skills and develop their careers in a hi-tech, modern manufacturing operation, where we have invested more than £100m in the past five years alone.
“While Unite has chosen to proceed with industrial action, we remain fully committed to maintaining talks with our colleagues at our Wakefield site and their representatives to secure a constructive outcome. We have robust contingency measures in place and are confident that there will be no disruption to our trade customers.”