Workers at Chep UK Ltd in Trafford Park are on strike today in a dispute over pay.
Employees at the Manchester pallet makers have been on an all-out continuous strike from Friday 17 December. The company supplies pallets to companies across the North West which include Heinz, Heineken, A&B Containers, Encric and TDS The dispute is over a 2% pay offer which is a real-terms pay cut with the retail price index (RPI) rate of inflation now standing at 7.1%.
Chep initially refused to enter into any discussions or negotiations with the union, but the company is now believed to be prepared to get round the table.
Morale was high on the picket line at Trafford Park, with strikers booing a former union representative who is now a team leader with shouts of "Shame on you".
Striker Martin Rae said: "10 to 12 people are breaking the strike. But you've got 68 out on the picket line. Which is a very big difference". He went on: "The union has been amazing. The money that we pay them is well worth it. They give us support, they are getting us what we need. The funding and the backing is brilliant."
One worker said: "We worked right through the pandemic and they were constantly telling us how important our jobs were. And that the country would come to a standstill if it wasn't for us. And look how we are rewarded. They cut our pay despite making a 179% increase in profits."
Mary Callaghan, Vice-Chair of Unite's Regional Committee in the North West said: We are here supporting the strikers. 7 Weeks in now. Letting these guys know keep going, don't give in you are doing a fantastic job and we will be back. We will be organising another picket to come down and support you all. And hopefully it will be a big one".
In a statement Unite's regional officer Ian McCluskey said: “Unite believes that the dispute has already cost Chep more in disrupted and unfulfilled orders than it would have cost to make its workers a fair pay offer.
We have contacted Chep UK for comment but at the time of writing they are yet to respond.