More than 2,000 workers at Coca-Cola Enterprises could go on strike this summer in a row over changes to the company’s pension scheme, as trade union Unite steps up the pressure on the soft drinks giant.

Last month The Grocer reported that more than four-fifths of Unite members at the soft drinks giant had voted in favour of a full strike ballot.

The union, which has members at Coca-Cola facilities including Wakefield, Northampton, Sidcup and Milton Keynes, will this week give formal notice of its intention to hold a full ballot.

The row began over planned changes to the company’s pension scheme that would see those who retire at 60 lose up to a quarter of their entitlement. Workers would be required to continue to 65 to receive their full pension.

Unite’s Jennie Formby claimed Coca-Cola was “determined to force a confrontation by imposing [changes] without consultation”.

“Our members have had enough of being shut out of discussions on maters of fundamental importance to them,” she said.

“Coca-Cola globally has a reputation of resistance to trade unions and its dismissive treatment of the workforce here shows the UK is no exception to this shabby rule.”

But Coca-Cola insisted that the changes to its pension scheme had followed "a full consultation process directly with our employees and employee representatives".
"We informed the unions at the start of that process and listened to their feedback throughout," a spokesperson for Coca-Cola said.

The company added: "CCE is very disappointed by the trade unions' intent to ballot for industrial action. We remain in and are committed to dialogue with all our employees and with the unions, and we firmly believe this offers the prospect of a constructive outcome – unlike industrial action.

"We have been talking to the unions in detail and frequently over recent weeks. We intend to continue this approach to reach a constructive outcome that addresses current issues and sets a robust framework for future discussions.

"Top of our agenda... is agreeing the right approach to managing future pay negotiations."

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Unions up the ante on worker pay demands (8 May 2010)