Source: Alamy 

More than 60 workers at Quorn’s factory in Billingham will begin ‘all-out’ strike action this Thursday in a dispute over a ‘derisory’ pay offer

Quorn staff are due to launch an “all-out” strike on Thursday in the latest chapter of an increasingly protracted dispute over pay. 

More than 60 workers at Quorn’s factory in Billingham, Teesside will take action in response to the meat-free brand’s “derisory” pay offer, trade union Unite said.

The workers, who are members of Unite, have already taken nine individual days of strike action in October over a 4% offer plus a one-off payment. They are seeing a 9% pay rise, reflecting the RPI inflation rate when negotiations began in April.

Unite suggested any new strike action at the plant would quickly result in shortages of Quorn products in supermarkets.

“The offer put forward by Quorn is a real-terms pay cut and completely unacceptable,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

Given how the brand had registered gross profits of almost £89m last year, “Quorn and [owner] Monde Nissin can absolutely afford to put forward a better offer to ensure these workers are paid fairly”. added Graham. “Our members are determined that they will do just that and they have Unite’s total and unwavering support during these strikes.” 

Workers due to take strike action include fermenter and chiller technicians, maintenance and laboratory staff and effluent treatment plant staff. An “all-out” strike means when all workers in a union or company strike at once. 

Unite accused Quorn of attempting to “undermine the strike action by deploying managers” to operate the factory during the first round of strikes earlier this month.

“[But] when our members returned to work from they found chaos on the production lines,” said Fazia Hussain, Unite regional officer.

The “chaos” resulted in Unite raising safety concerns, which unless addressed, would be taken to the Health & Safety Executive, it warned.

“The best course of action is for the company to get the workers back to work by putting forward an offer that reflects rising living cost,” added Hussain.

It comes amid growing industrial unrest throughout the food sector, with strike action over pay and conditions also threatened at the likes of Budweiser and Best Food, which supples workers for restaurants across the country, in recent weeks. Action carried out at Felixstowe Port this summer affected trade flows in and out of the UK.

“We are disappointed that further industrial action is planned for this week as we believe a 4% pay increase – worth over £2,000 per employee – plus a £1,000 bonus, is a fair and appropriate offer,” said a Quorn spokeswoman. “We continue to hold discussions with our employees and their representatives with the aim of quickly reaching a resolution.

“We can confirm that during this industrial action, there has been no change to the high standards of health and safety at our Billingham manufacturing site, nor has there been any risk to the supply of Quorn to our customers,” she added.