UK food and drink producers are facing potential shortages in packaging as workers at Darlington print firm Cepac continue their pay strikes, according to Unite labour union.

The dispute has intensified as over 90 workers have decided to hold two weeks of all-out strikes, rather than spreading the industrial action across separate days from July to September.

 Further strikes may follow if the company fails to present an improved offer.

The ongoing industrial action stems from the company’s offer of an eight per cent pay increase, but it comes with certain conditions. The workers view this offer as a real-terms pay cut, considering the current rate of inflation (RPI) stands at 10.7 per cent.

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 Cepac has made the eight per cent increase contingent on several changes, including increasing the working week from 37 hours to 40 hours, implementing an inferior sick pay scheme, altering shift patterns, and reducing overtime rates.

Cepac’s financial standing and union’s stance

Despite Cepac being a profitable company, with its latest accounts for 2021 showing a gross profit of £34m, the workers feel the proposed pay increase falls short of what they deserve.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham urges the company to table a fair pay offer and refrain from cutting workers’ terms and conditions.

The union firmly believes that Cepac can afford to provide its employees with a reasonable pay rise, and it fully supports the workforce in their pursuit of better jobs, pay, and conditions.

Dates of the strikes and Cepac’s Clients

The striking workers plan to commence their two-week strike on Monday, 31 July, at 6:00 a.m., and it will conclude on Monday, 14 August, at 5:59 a.m.

The industrial action is likely to cause disruptions for Cepac’s clients, including HBCP, whose customers include popular food outlets like Greggs, Costa, Subway, and Pret, as well as C&D Foods Group, which supplies to Aldi, Tesco, Morrisons, and Asda.

Other clients of Cepac include well-known brands such as Mars, Carlsberg, Innocent Drinks, Pernod, Lidl, Sainsbury, and Diageo.

Unite regional officer Pat McCourt emphasises that the responsibility for the disruption lies with Cepac itself, urging the company to present an offer that the workers can accept to put an end to the ongoing dispute.