Potential strike action at C&C’s Somerset cider plant has been averted after talks resumed and workers accepted the company’s original pay offer. 

Members of the Unite union at the Shepton Mallet Cider Mill were being balloted on whether to take industrial action in a disagreement on pay. They had originally accepted a 3% pay rise for 2012/13, but when it became conditional on a pay freeze in the following year and changes to shift patterns, they voted on whether to reject it, Unite representative Hugh Kirkbride said.

The ballot, which opened on 10 January, was due to close today, however after talks yesterday the original pay deal was unanimously accepted by employees.

Deb Kennedy, head of manufacturing and technical at C&C Group, said the company was very pleased that “common sense had won the day” and the threat of industrial action had been averted. 

“Our proposed original unconditional 3% pay increase for 2012 and 0% for 2013 was exceptional in the current economic climate and we look forward to working with Unite and its members here towards achieving a satisfactory negotiated settlement on 2014 pay, conditions, working practices and training,” she said. “This will position our staff well to support the ambitions we share for the Shepton Mallet site.”

Kirkbride said the disagreement had been “more to do with proposed changes to shift patterns and working practises”, but that the company had dropped the “strings” of the conditional offer and agreed to discuss them separately.

“The company had said further pay rises were conditional to 24/7 working – but we hadn’t started talking about that,” he told The Grocer. “We have agreed that there would be no preconditions on talks going forward, and we will discuss these changes.”

The Shepton Mallet Cider Mill produces Gaymers Original, Old English and Blackthorn cider.