More trouble for Bernard Matthews as workers strike

Around 1,300 workers at Bernard Matthews are to walk out on strike next Thursday over a pay offer that the union Unite says is effectively a pay cut.

Around 1,300 workers at Bernard Matthews are to strike next Thursday over a pay dispute. The union Unite says an offer of a 2% pay rise is effectively a pay cut, because inflation currently stands at 3.9%.

There are fears the dispute could affect the supply of Christmas turkeys to Sainsbury's, Tesco and Morrisons, which all stock Bernard Matthews turkey products.

Miles Hubbard, Unite regional industrial organiser, said: "The workforce has held this company together through a most challenging year, so have been particularly angered by management's imposition of what is effectively a pay cut.

"It is indicative of the strength of feeling that members have voted for strike action having worked so hard for the company in difficult circumstances. They came under a good degree of pressure from management not to vote for strike action, so we urge Bernard Matthews to return to us with an improved pay offer which they have thus far refused to do."

Workers want a £6.50 basic minimum hourly rate, but are currently on £5.72 and the imposed pay award only takes the hourly rate to £5.83.

A spokesperson for Bernard Matthews said: "Bernard Matthews has made a very strong pay offer in light of its current business position to the union, the T&G section of Unite; a 2% rise in wages backdated to August, an additional recovery bonus at year end and a review of the situation in February 2008. The union chose not to recommend this offer to its members and encouraged them to reject it and vote for industrial action instead.

"Unite now wishes to proceed with industrial action despite only 295 or 27% of around 1,100 union members, representing just 12% of our total workforce, voting in favour of industrial action at its ballot that finished on 5 November. Bernard Matthews is surprised at this decision as it has always worked very closely with the Unite, and even signed up to its 'Minimum Standards Agreement' to guarantee equality for agency workers.

"The consequence of lost business is potential job losses, which is not what anyone wants. The union's strategy of fighting for a pay award when there are no additional finances to fund one appears to be at odds with its desire to work in the interest of our employees' future."

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