Wissington and Cantley sugar beet factory workers vote against strike action

British Sugar workers at two Norfolk factories have 'reluctantly' accepted an increase in their salaries to end a pay dispute.

Unite Union's 250 members based at four plants including Wissington, near Downham Market and Cantley, near Great Yarmouth, decided to accept the offer of a 3.5pc rise after there was a lack of support for strike action.

Unite's regional officer, Tony Ellingford said: 'Our members have unhappily and reluctantly accepted the company's pay offer.

'The decision was taken in the context of the grim economic climate that does not look like improving under the coalition government.

'Our members did hold an industrial action ballot but it was deemed that there was insufficient support, by a narrow margin, for such action.'


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Members, also based at plants in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, and Newark in Nottinghamshire, had wanted a pay deal in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI), currently running at 5.2pc, plus 0.5pc for the year April 2011 to April 2012.

Had the workers voted to walk out, it would have been the first time in 30 years that British Sugar faced strike action and would have heavily impacted the start of the sugar beet campaign.

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Had the workers voted to walk out, it would have been the first time in 30 years that British Sugar faced strike action and would have heavily impacted the start of the sugar beet campaign.

A British Sugar spokesman said: 'We fully recognise and support the important role the trade unions undertake on behalf of their members.

'We feel we have always had a professional working relationship over the years and trust this will continue.

'We now look forward to maintaining our focus on processing this year's sugar beet crop and delivering our products to our customers.'

The sugar beet industry is worth about �800m to the economy in eastern England and supports a total of 13,000 jobs.

Around 1,500 growers in the East of England currently produce 3 million tonnes of beet for the Wissington factory, near Downham Market, every year.

The factory in Wissington supplies more than 400,000 tonnes of sugar to food and drink manufacturers in the UK and across Europe every year.

The 'most efficient factory in Europe' employs up to 300 people during the six-month beet campaign and also produces 100,000 tonnes of dried animal feed and 120,000 tonnes of LimeX every year.

Wissington is also the UK's largest grower of tomatoes and produces 140m tomatoes at its 44-acre Cornerways Nursery every year.

The nursery, which began in 2001 with just 12 acres (five hectares) of glasshouse, uses combined heat and power plant from the factory to help maintain temperatures.

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