England

Sugar workers: Strike ballot at four factories

Staff at four British Sugar plants in the East of England are to be balloted on industrial action after a 3.5% pay increase was rejected by their union.

Unite union is balloting 250 members on a strike or taking industrial action.

The plants are at Wissington and Cantley in Norfolk, Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and Newark in Nottinghamshire.

British Sugar said its offer had come out of negotiations which began in March and was fair and reasonable in the current economic climate.

Unite is seeking a pay deal equal to Retail Price Index inflation currently running at 5.2%, plus 0.5% for the year April 2011 - April 2012.

Its members include engineers and production staff.

Some accepted offer

Regional officer Mick Doherty said: "Our members are being hit very hard by the soaring cost of living.

"British Sugar is a very profitable company well able to afford a decent pay rise."

British Sugar said in a statement: "We have worked extremely hard with the trade unions to secure an offer that we believe is fair and reasonable within the current economic conditions and is above average pay awards in the external market place."

The offer is a 3.5% increase in salaries for all employees and some contract changes.

"All components of this package were recommended for acceptance by the trade unions to their members," the statement said.

"Members of the GMB Union have accepted the pay offer.

"However, members of Unite the Union have opted to conduct a ballot to vote on industrial action and we await the outcome.

"British Sugar has undertaken all necessary steps to mitigate any disruption to customers."

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