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A decision to allow agency workers to cover striking staff was recently overturned

Workers at KP Snacks in Rotherham are threatening strike action if their pay demands are not met – with a shortage of KP Nuts a resultant possibility.

Some 135 workers at the manufacturing site were “angry” and “fed up” about being paid a wage irreflective of KP’s financial successes, Unite said, and would vote on a walkout this week. If united in favour of a strike, the workers’ decision would shut the facility, potentially disrupting nut snack supplies to supermarkets and pubs.

KP Snacks grew revenues by 9.5% to £524m in the year to 1 January 2022, with gross profit margins up 1.3% to 47.7% on the previous year, its most recent accounts showed. Operating profits rocketed by 38% to £59.5m for the same period.

‘Workers won’t accept being paid peanuts’

Workers were offered a 6% pay rise, plus a £1,000 one-off payment. However, the average workers’ earnings at the facility had fallen by 14% in real terms since 2018, claimed Unite. Hygiene workers, who are the lowest paid at £10.66 an hour, recieved a 9.7% wage rise on 1 April and were not included in the current offer.

“Workers won’t accept being paid peanuts,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham. “To exclude the lowest paid workers from the pay negotiations all together is corporate greed in action.”

As the sole producer of KP Nuts, a strike at the Rotherham site would cause supply issues, said Unite regional officer Chris Rawlinson. “Unite members are determined to get a fairer portion of the company’s huge profits. It’s time for management to put a serious pay offer to the workforce.”

Agency staff can’t be used to undermine a strike

KP Snacks manufacturing director Mark Duffy told The Grocer the business was in continued discussions with workers in Rotherham and their representatives. “The 6% pay rise we are offering, alongside a £1,000 inflation payment, is competitive within the market,” he said.

The business had invested £50m in the Rotherham facility, safeguarding 130 jobs, since 2015, added Duffy. “We have robust processes in place across our supply chain and at this stage are confident there will be no disruption to our customers.”

However, the High Court last week overturned the government’s decision to allow companies to hire agency workers to cover striking staff as unlawful. Some 13 unions had challenged the decision to undermine strike action, with the ruling enforceable from next month and likely to add pressure on supply chains.