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Gloucestershire Business News

Coleford Lucozade workers strike over pay

More than 180 staff have started a week-long strike at the Coleford, Forest of Dean, factory which produces Ribena and Lucozade.

Amid claims that management had failed to address the cost-of-living crisis, members of the union Unite, employed by Suntory Beverage & Food in Coleford, began a pay dispute strike, which marked the first walkout to take place at the Gloucestershire site since the 1970s.

Workers had received a two-year pay deal, effective from April 1, 2022, with a commitment from the employer to review the second year's increase, should inflation exceed 5% between January to June 2023.

However, with the inflation rate exceeding this, Unite members claimed that Suntory, which produces drinks including Lucozade Energy, Lucozade Sport and Ribena, has not met expectations. 

The consequent strike may lead to shortages of Lucozade and Ribena on the supermarket shelves.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: "Suntory is flush with cash and it is reprehensible that it has failed to give our members a fair pay increase.

"Unite does what it says on the trade union tin and always puts its members' jobs, pay and conditions first. The workers at Suntory have Unite's complete support."

Michael Hobbs, Unite regional officer, added: "The strike action will inevitably result in shortages of consumers favourite drinks, but Suntory has brought this strike on itself due to its unreasonable actions.

"Our members have been pushed to their limit because of the continuous disrespect shown by Suntory and its inability to address the current impact of the cost-of-living crisis on its workers. We're looking for a fair pay deal and we'll support our members until we get a fair pay deal. At the moment the company is offering us 1.75% which is not enough." 

In response to the union's claims, Karl Ottomar, supply chain director at Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I, said: "Our current pay and benefits package makes us a very competitive employer in the region. In 2022, we gave employees a pay increase and a one-off additional payment in recognition of their work and to support with the cost-of-living crisis. For the current pay negotiation, we are offering a 5.25% pay increase to these employees.

"To support our customers, we have business continuity plans to ensure minimal disruption through this period. During this week, the factory will remain open with production lines still producing drinks for customers nationwide.

"SBF GB&I remains committed to supporting all our employees, suppliers and customers, working with fairness and consistency."

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