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Workers strike at world’s biggest Nutella factory

The plant produces 600,000 jars of the chocolate and hazelnut spread every day.

Workers are striking at the world’s biggest Nutella factory in France (AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar, File)
Workers are striking at the world’s biggest Nutella factory in France (AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar, File)

French workers have brought the world’s biggest Nutella factory to a near-standstill in a showdown over salary negotiations.

Tensions have been mounting at the site in Villers-Ecalles in Normandy, where activists from the Workers’ Force union have been barring trucks from entering or leaving the factory for a week.

The plant produces 600,000 jars of the chocolate and hazelnut spread every day — a quarter of the world’s production of the product.

After six days of failed efforts to end the stand-off, Nutella owner Ferrero has started threatening fines for workers involved in the blockade, according to a company statement.

It's war, anger is mounting Union activist Fabien Lacabanne

But that has not deterred unions. Workers’ Force says 160 of the factory’s 350 workers are taking part in a walkout to demand 4.5% salary increases, one-time 900-euro bonuses and better working conditions.

“It’s war, anger is mounting,” union activist Fabien Lacabanne said.

He said the company agreed to a 1.7% raise for the lowest paid workers, and one-time bonuses between zero and 400 euro, which unions say is not enough given rising living costs. Unions also complain of deteriorating factory conditions and increasing pressure to be more productive.

Italian-owned Ferrero said it is trying to protect workers who are not on strike, and wants to resume dialogue — but not until the workers stop blocking the factory.

The next negotiation meeting is scheduled for June 13.

French workers frequently go on strike during salary negotiations and occasionally resort to more dramatic methods. The last strike to hit the Villers-Ecalles factory was in 2011.

The action comes amid anger among many low-income French workers at pro-business policies by President Emmanuel Macron seen as favouring the rich — and that prompted the yellow vest protest movement.

PA

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