Belfast Telegraph

Musgrave denies breakdown in pay talks as strike ballot looms

One of Northern Ireland's largest independent food and retail distributors has rejected claims that talks over a proposed pay freeze have "broken down".

The Unite union has called for staff at Musgrave Wholesale Partners Northern Ireland to strike over "scrooge-like" behaviour.

Unite regional industrial organiser Maurice Cunningham said the talks facilitated by the Labour Relations Agency had broken down and that workers would be balloted for industrial action in the new year.

"The company had offered a pay freeze when talks started in February this year but the Unite members opposed the pay freeze," said Mr Cunningham

"The company refused to budge from the 0% increase for their workers and have shown a scrooge-like attitude at this time of year.

"It is quite clear that Musgrave wish to operate a minimum wage policy only for their workers and it is a position which the Unite members will oppose."

A spokeswoman from the umbrella body Musgrave Group said that she understood that the talks came to an amicable end and would resume in the new year.

"The company met with Unite and is surprised to hear that this is their view on how the meeting ended," she said.

"We have a good working relationship with Unite and our understanding was that we would be resuming talks in January on our pay policy for 2011."

Musgrave Wholesale Partners Northern Ireland employs 294 staff, of which 64 are represented by Unite, and supplies to independent retail and food outlets.

Staff at Musgrave Retail Group's Centra, SuperValu and Mace stores are not affected.