Workers at drinks giant Greene King have announced a rolling programme of strikes into July as a result of an ongoing pay dispute.
Unite union announced the first two days of strike action will be on 12-13 March by its 160 delivery drivers, draymen, brewery production staff and warehouse workers at Bury St Edmunds, the firm’s Suffolk headquarters, and distribution centres at Abingdon, Oxfordshire and Eastwood, Nottinghamshire.
The workforce, employed by the brewing and brands department, voted “overwhelmingly” for strike action in January after they said they have become “angry” at years of 2% pay rises that “failed to reflect the soaring cost of living”.
Workers will strike on 12-13 March depending when their shift starts which, for some, may stretch over to 14 March. The other 12 dates for strike action will not be announced until 14 days beforehand.
There will also be a lunchtime protest at the Westgate brewery, Bury St Edmunds IP33 1QT on Friday 6 March.
The strike comes after the £4.6bn takeover last August of Greene King, which has 3,000 pubs, by CK Asset Holdings.
Unite regional officer Mark Jaina said: “These pay negotiations have dragged on for months with a hardline management being blinkered as to the ever-rising cost of living that our members have endured for several years.
“We are planning a rolling schedule of strikes into the summer which should send a strong message to the bosses that our members are serious about rectifying this pay injustice. The first two-day strike action is 12-13 March.”
He added: “This strike could lead to the severe disruption in supplies to pubs, clubs and restaurants and some drinkers could face a beer drought as a result.
“The relatively new owners of Greene King – CK Asset Holdings – can’t be happy at the reputational damage that strike action will cause to customers so soon after taking control of one of the UK’s premier hospitality and beer brands.”
He concluded: “However, there is a window of opportunity before the first strikes next month and we urge the management to take this opportunity for them to get around the table and negotiate in a constructive fashion to resolve this dispute.”
A Greene King spokesperson told Catering Today: “We remain disappointed that the union has encouraged its members to reject our pay offer for its members, as well as a number of other benefits, and pursue this course of action.
Our pay rise offer is fair and consistent across the brewing division, especially given the challenging wider economic environment. This affects just three out of 15 depots across the country.”
They added: “We have full contingency plans in place to minimise disruption and we will be working closely with our customers to communicate and implement these over the coming two weeks.
“Union members account for fewer than 170 people out of 800 in our brewery workforce, which means we will still have a majority of non-union members working. We would like to thank them and our customers for their loyalty and support during this period.”