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Hovis strike could cause disruption to supply of bread in Northern Ireland

Allied Bakeries staff also to vote on industrial action


Hovis workers were preparing to strike on Friday

Hovis workers were preparing to strike on Friday

Hovis workers were preparing to strike on Friday

German discount retailer Lidl said it is closely monitoring the situation as Hovis workers prepare to strike on Friday over their "scandalous" pay.

There are fears the bread supply will be disrupted as Unite the Union is also separately balloting members at the other main bread manufacturer in Northern Ireland, Allied Bakeries.

Picketing at the Hovis site on Apollo Road in Belfast will begin at one minute past midnight on Friday.

Lidl stocks Hovis bread in its stores, while the factory also makes Lidl's own-brand bread.

"We will be adjusting orders if necessary to ensure that the supply offered to our ever growing customer base will not be affected," a Lidl spokesman said.

Just under 90% (88%) of Hovis workers voted for strike action in pursuit of a 5.1% pay claim.

United the Union said staff at Hovis and Allied Bakeries were "serious about winning real improvements in pay".

Hovis employs around 250 people at the bakery on Apollo Road. It makes bread under the Ormo and Mother's Pride brands as well as own-label bread for M&S, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Lidl. Allied Bakeries produce Kingsmill, Burgen, Allinson and Sunblest.

Sean McKeever, Unite regional officer, said that after "deducting shift premiums, overtime and bonuses, Hovis workers receive a basic wage 90p below national minimum wage threshold".

"As such, in recent pay negotiations, the workers are seeking a pay uplift of 5.1% equivalent to 37p an hour on their basic rate," he said.

"Unfortunately management have completely failed to address those legitimate pay expectations. Bosses refused to meet the pay claim and instead offered a meagre 23p an hour uplift (3.2%).

"In effect, bosses are forcing workers to the gate for less than 14p an hour in terms of a differential," he added.

"This is both scandalous and an insult to the workforce.

"Pickets will be going up outside the Boucher Road plant at a minute past midnight on Friday morning.

"The strike action will be continuous - it is an all-out strike as the workers are determined to secure themselves fair pay.

"This is a fight they cannot afford to lose, but is likely to result in considerable disruption to this company's ability to provide bread across Northern Ireland for the duration.

"Unite is also separately balloting our members at the other main bread manufacturer in Northern Ireland, Allied Bakeries. Workers in the sector are getting organised - they are serious about winning real improvements in pay."

Speaking in December, when Unite announced it was balloting members, Mr McKeever said that last year Hovis had made £15m in profits before tax.

In a statement, Hovis said that it was "disappointed hear the results of the Unite the Union and BFAWU ballots for strike action".

"We have subsequently entered into further discussions in good faith and have improved our offer," a spokesman added.

"It is disappointing to see no movement from the unions in these negotiations with no indication that our revised offer will be put to members to vote. We remain very open to discussions and are committed to finding a resolution.

"We operate in a tough and competitive market subject to increasingly higher operating costs but still offer pay and conditions that are market comparable as we continue to sustainably build the business.

"We will continue to seek a resolution that is acceptable to all sides and are committed to reaching a conclusion to this action as soon as possible."

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