Watton factory workers warn of industrial action

Workers at pork factory in Norfolk today (Wednesday) warned bosses they would walk out in protest at proposed cuts to pay and conditions.

Staff at Cranswick Country Food in Watton ended their shifts with a message to employers that if they refused to shelve plans to cut wages, they would take action.

At about 2.30pm, between 150 and 200 workers joined a protest at the factory gates, holding placards and holding flags, while many also displayed signs in the windows of their cars saying 'I will take industrial action'.

Unite, the union, said about 80pc of staff also handed in pledge cards warning of their intentions.

One worker told the EDP he felt everything was being taken away from him. The butcher said: 'I was standing with everyone on the gate to demonstrate I am unhappy with their new pay and conditions. It's horrible. I will lose �100 per week.'

Unite, which represents workers at the factory, said staff were set to lose �4 or �5 from their hourly rates and bosses could also cut sick pay, holiday pay and overtime rates.

Union representative Matt Dore-Weeks said today's protest had been a strong signal to the Cranswick management that staff were 'not going to accept this terrible injustice'.

Most Read

He added: 'We are serious. We are not bluffing. Industrial action will be the final resort only when all other avenues have been explored but we are in a position where we may have no choice.'

Adam Couch, Cranswick main board director responsible for the group's fresh pork operations, said he was aware of the grievances but was keen to stress that their main objective was to modernise the plant, make it more efficient and retain jobs.

'We have consulted with staff at quite some length and discussions continue,' he said. 'It is important for us to modernise and give us a good platform to go forward. The other two pig processing plants in the area have closed down so it is very important to keep this plant as viable as possible.'

He said investment of �4m, which had been made since buying the factory from Bowes for �17.2 in 2009, had increased productivity.

'We are looking to secure jobs not cut them but we are aware of the feelings at the site and we are in constant dialogue with the general manager,' he added.

He could not comment on individual pay changes, saying different departments within the factory were affected in different ways, but said most workers would be better off on a weekly basis once pay rates were simplified and made more flexible.

Other areas of the business, which has sites all across the UK, were also being looked at to make savings, he said.

'I hope it will not come to industrial action and we have a good record of staff relations so we will continue with the open dialogue with staff and union reps.'