Colman’s mustard factory staff go on strike in Norwich over pay dispute
- Credit: SIMON FINLAY
Staff at the Colman's mustard factory in Norwich braved the cold weather this morning to go on strike over a pay dispute.
Union representatives say more than 70 employees from the Unilever-owned Carrow Works site in Bracondale have taken industrial action.
It comes after the company rejected a claim by GMB and Unite members for an increase in pay, in line with the average pay settlement for manufacturing groups across the UK in 2015 (2.4pc).
Staff have been picketing outside the site since 6am today and will continue until 6pm. The overall strike is expected to last 24 hours.
Ivan Mercer, GMB regional officer, said: 'We did not rush into strike action and we are taking it very reluctantly, but we have been left with no option by Unilever. Our members don't want to be outside the gate today. It is the last thing we want.'
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Industrial action follows a recently published report by Unilever chief executive officer Paul Polman showing the company achieved underlying sales growth of 4.7pc and 8.3pc in emerging markets in the first quarter of 2016.
Further compounding the dispute, the quarterly dividend for shared holders was raised by 6pc with Mr Polman himself last year being awarded a pay increase of 24pc plus shares.
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Standing in the picket line was 49-year-old Andy Lee, who has worked at the factory for the past 26 years.
He said: 'We just want a share in the success of the businesses, not a lot, but just so we can maintain a living. People can't afford to lose a day's wages, but they are prepared to.'
Employee Kevin Gotts, 48, joined the picket having completed an eight-hour shift from 10pm to 6am.
He added: 'We are disappointed it has reached this point and we were hoping for it to be resolved earlier, but it has been going on for a year and we are not happy.'
A Unilever spokesman said: 'We are disappointed that the trade unions at our Norwich factory have decided not to ballot our employees on our improved pay offer, and instead move straight to industrial action.
'We are confident that our offer delivers a package of pay and benefits that is both competitive and appropriate, and we remain open to further discussions with both the GMB and Unite unions.'
Colman's was founded in Norwich in 1814 and as such is the oldest brand in the Unilever portfolio.