South East Wales

RF Brookes workers in Newport to strike over pay changes

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Media captionIndustrial action is planned at the RF Brookes plant in Newport

Workers at one of the UK's biggest food manufacturers are set to go on strike.

About 160 people at RF Brookes in Rogerstone, Newport, are striking over proposals which comply with the new National Living Wage.

The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union said workers would lose thousands of pounds in shift allowances.

But 2 Sisters Food Group said it was "misleading" to link a new pay deal with the new minimum wage.

The UK government brought in a minimum hourly rate of £7.20 per hour for over 25s in April.

The union said the company had proposed changes to increase the lowest hourly rate.

John James, the union's organising regional secretary, said the company did not see the shift allowances as a problem until the National Living Wage was brought in.

"When the UK government brought in a living wage, it was to raise the expectations of people and unfortunately companies have used it to take terms and conditions off people currently," he said.

"It's not acceptable in today's society that we should put the burden on the lowest paid workers."

Image caption John James said workers would be worse off as part of the new pay offer

He added about 160 of the 800 shop floor staff at the Rogerstone site would be negatively affected by the changes.

One worker Mike Smith, from Llanhilleth, Blaenau Gwent, told BBC Wales he stood to lose £2,800 per year.

"They'll have an increase in the hourly rate, but they're taking off the night shift allowance, time-and-a-half for Saturday, double time for Sunday, everything like that," he said.

"Some of my colleagues will be losing up to £5,000 a year.

"We shouldn't have to lose [the shift allowances] to finance the living wage - I think the government needs to address this."

Image caption Mike Smith said he and his colleagues face losing thousands of pounds under the new deal

A spokesman for the 2 Sisters Food Group said: "To connect this to the living wage would be totally inaccurate and misleading.

"Negotiations are all part of standard annual talks we have with unions at all our sites over the UK - Rogerstone is no different."

The new packages offered at Rogerstone represented pay increases for the large majority of the 934 colleagues on site, the spokesman added.

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