Socialist Worker

‘Can your offer,’ say Heinz workers in Wigan

Issue No. 2061

More than 1,000 workers at the Heinz food processing plant in Wigan, Lancashire, walked out for 24 hours on unofficial strike action on Tuesday of last week in protest at management’s latest pay offer.

Workers held two angry mass meetings in the canteen to discuss the offer of 3.5 percent.

Workers are also angry at attacks on sick pay and disciplinary procedures as well as plans to cut temporary workers’ pay.

They were further outraged to hear plans to give managers a £5,000 bonus to reward them for an increase in pre-tax profits at the plant of more than £135 million.

Against the advice of Unite union officials, the workers held a show of hands and walked out.

Almost the entire workforce of the plant – the biggest food canning plant in Europe – joined the walkout.

The factory is in the same industrial estate as the JJB warehouse where workers struck and won over pay last November.

One of the Heinz workers who walked out told Wigan Today that he had worked at the plant for 29 years.

He said, “The lads are really mad about the way that we have been treated and wanted to show the company that we mean business.

“We have gone along with all the company’s changes in terms of shift changes and extra productivity which has helped this place, once again, make a massive profit – as it has done every year I have worked here – but this is the way we are treated.

“Hearing that managers are going to get a bonus when ours is being cut is the final straw.”

Heinz could certainly afford a better pay offer. In May the company declared annual profits were up by 21.7 percent.

Heinz boss William Johnson boasted that it had been “a great year” for the company.

It was cerainly a great year for him as he received over £9 million in pay, perks and stocks and shares.

The joint shop stewards committee at the factory issued a statement. It said, “At a mass meeting of all Heinz employees, they voted overwhelmingly to take a 24 hour stoppage, effective immediately, and this was underpinned with an overtime ban.”

The statement said that the unofficial action was repudiated by both sections of the trade union, Unite.

But it pointed out, “The dispute was driven by the lack of progress in the annual pay claim negotiations and the company’s insistence on wanting to discuss cuts to terms and conditions to fund the claim.

“The workforce expressed deep concern on a number of issues that they felt needed urgent attention.”

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Tue 24 Jul 2007, 18:14 BST
Issue No. 2061
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