GMB union representatives met senior managers for talks yesterday, after 80% of union affiliated members at the Staffordshire site (which employs around 500 staff) rejected Adams Foods' current pay offer in a pre-Christmas ballot.
Adams Foods – formerly the Kerrygold Company – only moved into the £30m Leek facility in May 2009; as a result of the site upheaval the union accepted a 1% pay deal for members that year as opposed to the traditional rise in line with inflation.
But staff are now angry at the current company offer of a 1% pay increase this year coupled with a 5% rise in sick pay; since late last year Adams has already rejected two union proposals for better pay: firstly a deal to up it by 5%, then a subsequent lower offer.
Effective pay cut
GMB organiser Colin Griffiths told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the offer on the table amounted to a pay cut in real terms: “Headline inflation is running at 4.9%, so the reality is clear-cut and our members rightly consider this effectively a pay cut.
“Last year we helped the company bed-in to its new facility – when members only had a 1% pay rise – and the firm has surpassed all expectations in terms of its performance, so we’re hopeful of reaching a reasonable conclusion.
“We do appreciate the company’s position, and it’s about avoiding any further dispute by keeping both parties happy. Strikes are a last resort from our viewpoint.”
GMB shop stewards at Adams Foods are now drawing-up a revised pay offer to put to company management, said Griffiths, who added that he was hopeful the current disagreement could be resolved.
“It’s not just about pounds, shillings and pence, and we’re looking at possible improvements in terms and conditions, but we do need some movement from the company.”
A spokeswoman for Adams Food said: “The company can confirm that discussions have progressed, but they are not at a point of absolute conclusion so we cannot comment further.”
Leading cheese supplier
Adams Foods’ Leek plant currently packs over 60,000t of cheese per year and runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Owned by the Irish Dairy Board, the firm was created last March after a merger between the Kerrygold Company and North Downs Dairy in Dorset.
Adams produces own-label and branded cheese such as Pilgrim’s Choice and Kerrygold Butter, and claims to be the UK’s leading supplier of retail prepacked hard cheese, supplying 30% of the total market in 2010.