Coca-Cola workers in Wakefield make threats to strike over pay and 'bullying tactics'

Supplies of Coca-Cola could run dry this summer as workers at the plant in Wakefield threaten to strike over pay.

By Nick Frame
Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 3:29 pm

Around 60 staff at the bottling factory on Kenmore Road in Lofthouse could down tools over below-inflation pay offers, despite making more than £1.6 billion in profit.

In addition, the union, Unite, says bosses are resorting to 'bullying tactics' by threatening pay cuts if workers walk out.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “This scandalous behaviour is tainting one of the world’s biggest brands. This Coca-Cola bottling plant is trying to bully and threaten our members into taking a pay cut while making money hand over fist.

The plant could be badly affected by strike action.

“Workers at the plant are rightly furious. They are joining Unite in numbers and the workers are determined to get fair treatment.

“Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) needs to think again and fast because these workers have the power to grind production of Coca-Cola to a halt unless they get a better deal.

"Our members can be assured that they have Unite’s total support in this fight.”

Unite says CCEP is offering the workers an "abysmal" 21-month pay deal of 3.25 per cent for the first 12 months, and 1.75 per cent for the next nine months.

The plant in Lofthouse.

That would mean a real-terms pay cut of 6.7 per cent, based on the current RPI rate of 11.7 per cent.

To make matters worse, they say CCEP is threatening staff with further reductions to the pay offer, and threatening potential changes to “ways of working” should they take industrial action.

In 2021, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) made £1.6 billion in profit and had revenues worth £12.7 billion.

The site in Lofthouse is the largest CCEP plant and the biggest soft drinks plant in Europe.

It produces over 100 million cases a year, over 50 per cent of the UK’s supplies and more than twice that of any other UK site.

This year, workers at the plant set a new record for volume output in a single week, shipping 3,335,097 cases.

The workers have unanimously rejected the company’s latest pay offer and subsequent threats and are now preparing to stage an industrial action ballot.

The workers include microbiologists and lab analysts responsible for testing and safety, gatehouse operatives who ensure HGVs can enter the site and operations planners who ensure that production runs smoothly.

A strike by these workers could grind supplies of Coca Cola from Wakefield to a halt.

Unite’s Chris Rawlinson said: “CCEP can easily afford to offer workers a fair pay increase but have resorted to heavy-handed tactics.

"If management continue to make threats and refuse to budge on pay then Unite will ballot its members for strike action. Our membership is growing and the workforce is prepared for action.”

A spokesperson for Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) in Great Britain, said: “We are disappointed that our pay offer hasn’t been accepted as we believe that the total package we are offering our colleagues is competitive within the marketplace.

"We will maintain an ongoing dialogue with our employees’ representatives and are ready to continue pay talks to reach a solution.

"The current negotiations are with a small number of colleagues who are responsible for clerical and administrative tasks at one of CCEP’s sites in Great Britain.

"Therefore, whilst we hope that a resolution can be found, we are preparing contingency measures and are confident that there will be no disruption to our trade customers.”