Paper workers in the UK strike over pay, respect

By Ögmundur Jónsson
May 29, 2023

MANCHESTER, England — Forty production workers at Saica Paper UK here have been carrying out a series of one-day strikes for higher pay and better job conditions.

The Unite union members voted 97% in favor of strike action after rejecting the company’s offer of a 6.5% pay increase plus a one-time lump sum amounting to 3% of wages. The official inflation rate is 13.8%.

“Yesterday they offered a 10% increase, but I told them I know the guys won’t settle for that,” lead union representative Scott Wildman told the Militant at the picket line April 29.

Saica processes recycled paper that goes into cardboard boxes used by Amazon, beverage giant Diageo and Dominoes Pizza.

“Managers have been trying to run production,” Wildman said. “Normally we make 12-14 rolls in a shift, and they’re making two.”

“This is also about respect,” he said. “We work four days on, six off, and those days off include our holidays.” The bosses have workers come in for training on holidays “and then they expect you to come in when you’re sick.”

Workers said that they don’t get guaranteed lunch breaks on their 12-hour shift, often having to eat at the machine. As a result, “staff turnover is 27%,” Wildman said. They were inspired by contract fights by workers at Saica in Zaragoza, Spain, where the multinational company is headquartered, he said.