On the Picket Line

Biscuit factory workers in Britain strike for wage raises

By Anne Howie
December 5, 2022

LIVERPOOL, England — Some 700 workers at Jacob’s Cream Crackers plant here walked out on an indefinite strike Nov. 14 in a fight for higher wages. The factory is one of several in the country owned by Pladis, which its website says is “one of the world’s leading snacking companies.” GMB union members began striking one shift per week in September, as well as refusing overtime or to act as trainers.

The union demands an 8.5% raise in a one-year deal. The bosses offered less, over two years, then threatened to withdraw that offer unless workers stopped the strikes. They also moved some production to Portugal.

“You’ve got to take into account the cost-of-living crisis,” striker Margie Baines told the Militant. Inflation is currently running at 14.2%, with food prices at 16.2%, a 45-year high.

“People are angry at the employer for not giving a decent pay increase but also because of the conditions that they are working in,” Paul Holleran, health and safety officer for the GMB union, told the Liverpool Echo.

The unions at Pladis factories in London and Manchester have accepted the two-year deal, with an additional one-off 500 pound bonus ($590). Strikers on the picket line said workers at the plant in Carlisle have rejected the deal and are preparing to strike.

“We weren’t getting anywhere” with the shift strikes, Shirley Turner, with 34 years at the factory, said. “So a mass meeting voted unanimously for an all-out strike.”

A contributing factor in that decision was bosses firing three workers in an attempt to intimidate the unionists. Two were dismissed for gross misconduct after bosses got hold of a video on social media of them singing a song about a worker who was a strikebreaker while they were on a private trip outside of work time. A third worker was sacked after she reacted to management provocatively questioning her “attitude.”

Passing car, van and bus drivers toot their horns constantly, expressing support. “Since round-the-clock picketing started we’ve managed to stop all lorries crossing the picket line,” said GMB union official Lisa Ryan. Solidarity delegations by other union members have helped keep spirits high.

A delegation of over 25 Unite union dockworkers at Peel Ports, fresh from winning their own labor dispute, came to give their backing. Their fight won pay hikes from 14% to over 18%, depending on job grades. They got support from unions from other ports in the U.K., across Europe and worldwide.