By Sarah Ensor
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Chep UK workers launch an all-out strike over pay

The Unite union at every level must give full support to such key battles
Issue 2786
15 pickets, some in flourescent jackets, some with raised fists, outside the Chep pallets strike

Pickets are outside the plant 24 hours a day Monday to Friday (Pic: Sarah Ensor)

Chep UK workers in the Unite union began an all-out strike over pay on 17 December after four days of earlier strikes.

Strikers are picketing the Trafford Park site in Manchester 24 hours a day, Monday to Friday and say they intend to stay out until they get a fair pay rise. “Our Christmas is going to be here, fighting,” one striker said.

Chep UK workers make pallets and other containers for major companies including Heinz and Heineken and were designated key workers during the pandemic last year.  Then management insulted them with a one percent pay increase while the company made over £150 million profit.

“We had to work through Covid and take one percent because we thought the company was struggling, but we’ve found out now they’ve been milking it and were creaming it in,” said a striker.

“They’ve spent £10,000 on cameras and more security since the start of the strike, and have Security wear (body worn) video to watch us,” another said.

Other Chep UK sites pay up to £1,000 a year more than in Manchester where workers turned down a 1.5 percent offer, then 2 percent and voted by 75 percent to strike. Pickets said that some workers who voted no are planning to join the strike now.

The strikers are well organised with gazebos and a brazier and lots of support from local residents and the GMB union which allowed pickets to use its facilities nearby.

A group of six pickets closely reading Socialist Worker

Pickets enjoying some essential reading (Pic: Sarah Ensor)

Workers in the Unison and PCS unions have visited pickets with banners, flags and sweets while passing lorries and a convoy of six Amazon vans blared their horns in support.

Strikers said many delivery drivers, from as far away as Middlesbrough, had not crossed the picket line, including the Calor gas needed for the site’s five fork lift trucks on each shift.

With the latest RPI inflation figure hitting 7.1 percent, Chep is an important example of how workers will have to fight to defend and extend their living standards.

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