Hovis strike action which was planned to commence on 5 March 2023 over a dispute in pay has since been suspended, after latest developments show a last minute improved pay offer has been made by management during negotiations.
While the strike was due to take place, the forecast looked gloomy: Unite, the union which had “overwhelmingly” voted in favour of strike action (more than 95%), warned that the action was likely to impact bread supplies across Northern Ireland. Strike action was planned by workers at the company’s Belfast plant.
The issue was primarily over pay, as Unite wrote that “Hovis has enjoyed bumper sales during the Covid pandemic”, stating that the company could afford to increase its workers’ pay.
“Hovis has enjoyed huge success during the Covid pandemic and in the period following it. The group posted pre-tax profits of almost £50 million in 2021 and is a well-funded business with a strong balance sheet. The company can well afford to increase the pay of these workers to provide some protection from the surge in inflation,” stated Sharon Graham, General Secretary of Unite, in a show of support for the workers.
Regional Officer for the workforce Sean McKeever, however, issued a last-minute call for management to address the pay claim and avoid unnecessary strike action, which seems to have worked.
“In repeated strikes over the last few years, the Hovis workforce has repeatedly demonstrated their willingness and determination to secure improvements to their pay and conditions. A ballot of more than 95 percent for strike action should surely force some reconsideration by management,” he said. “It is still not too late for management to address our members’ pay claim and avoid this strike action. A strike by our members will shutdown production at Hovis’ Belfast production site and is likely to hugely impact the availability of Bread on supermarket shelves across Northern Ireland. Management have it within their power to avoid this unnecessary outcome.”
Unite has confirmed that it has moved to suspend planned action for seven days while it ballots its members on the improved offer. Should they reject the deal, continuous strike action will be scheduled to commence from Sunday, 12 March.
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Editor, International Bakery
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