Workers at Dairy Produce Packers in Coleraine will today stop work for an hour in protest at a pay freeze imposed by parent company the Kerry Group.
The Unite union said that the Tralee-headquartered dairy giant had imposed the freeze without any “genuine negotiation” with employees.
“It is the uncontested view of workers that DPP is currently enjoying very good business with very high volumes of cheese production and as such it is unreasonable and unacceptable that the plant owners, Kerry Group have instructed local management not to enter into the normal annual negotiations in respect of pay,” said Unite regional industrial organiser Gareth Scott.
“The only reason management have given for refusal to enter into the normal annual pay negotiations is that there is an executive instruction from the Kerry Group that they are imposing a pay freeze across the Group regardless of individual plant performance. This is despite the fact that it is the Kerry Group that normally insists on local bargaining as opposed to Group bargaining,” he added.
Workers may take further industrial action if management did not enter into discussions, he said.
Kerry Group’s director of corporate affairs Frank Hayes said the move had been made due to changes in consumer purchasing habits and certain markets becoming more difficult during the recession.
“We have implemented a pay pause policy across all of our operations in the UK and Ireland in view of the downturn.
“This is something we think is prudent to ensure the viability of our businesses and the continued growth and development of those businesses,” he said.
He said Kerry Group had indicated to DPP managers that the situation would be reviewed towards the end of the year.
A leading cheese manufacturer, DPP has a contract to provide all the cheese used by McDonald’s in the UK and Europe worth £50m a year. It’s Coleraine plant employs around 160 people.
Unite’s Mr Scott said the DPP management had failed to provide information about the plant’s financial performance, but employees believed it was performing well.
“Workers are very angry and upset at the lack of respect shown by the Kerry Group to them and their union and feel that this is a clear case of a large multinational company jumping on the back of the current recession without need to justify their decision. Workers in DPP have over a number of years contributed to the ongoing success of the plant and they deserve to be treated better than this,” he said.