Coca-Cola summer shortage warning as another pay row erupts

·2 min read
coca-cola
coca-cola

Britain risks a summer shortage of Coca-Cola after union bosses threatened to bring factories to a halt over an "abysmal" pay deal. 

Workers in Wakefield at the largest soft drink plant in Europe are set to be balloted on taking industrial action this summer which, if agreed, could wipe out half of Britain's supply of Coca-Cola.

The bottling plant produces more than 100 million cases of Coca-Cola a year, equal to around 50pc of the UK's supplies of the soft drink. Workers including microbiologists, gatehouse operatives and operations planners will be voting over whether to take strike action.

It comes after they unanimously rejected a 21-month pay offer from Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, which would have given them a 3.25pc pay increase for the first 12 months, reducing to 1.75pc for the following nine months. Union bosses said this would mean a real-terms pay cut of 6.7pc. They claimed CCEP bosses had threatened to cut that pay offer further and change "ways of working" if they strike over the deal.

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.”

Unite’s Chris Rawlinson added: “Coca-Cola Europacific Partners 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.”

CCEP made a £1.6bn profit in its most recent financial year. It employs 33,200 workers across 29 countries, and also makes other soft drinks including Fanta and Sprite.

A spokesman for CCEP said the company was "disappointed" with the situation and remained in talks with representatives to come to an agreement with its workers. The spokesman added CCEP was "confident that there will be no disruption to our trade customers."

The latest threat comes amid a wave of industrial action across Britain, with the country brought to a standstill last week by the largest rail strike in 30 years.

This week, drivers on the London Tramlink walked out in a row over pay, while airport workers have announced their own plans for summer strikes next month.