Heinz staff call off strike

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HEINZ workers are being balloted over an improved pay offer.

Staff at the Kitt Green plant called off their latest strike after a day of talks offered an eleventh hour hope of peace.

Union Unite is organising a rapid consultation and ballot of members over the new offer, which includes a 3.5 per cent rise this year, a £200 non-consolidated bonus, a 3.4 per cent pay rise in 2012, together with other minor amendments.

But union bosses have already given notice that they are due to walk out again on January 11, saying that the offer is “still short of what the workforce deserves”.

The overtime ban and work to rule that have been in place since the beginning of the dispute will also remain and have not been suspended.

Unite national officer for food and drink Jennie Formby said: “Heinz has tabled a new offer and the senior stewards agree we must give our members an opportunity to vote on this.

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“However, Unite believes that the new offer, which represents only a small improvement, is less than our members deserve and certainly less than Heinz, should and could be paying.

“If workers reject the offer, a further stoppage will take place next Tuesday.”

Senior steward at Kitt Green Mick Quinn said that there were “marginal improvements” made to the company’s offer.

A spokesman for the company said Heinz had put a further revised deal to the Unite union negotiating team of a 3.5 per cent pay increase in year one plus a £200 one-off payment, and an increase of 3.4 per cent in year two together with a performance-related bonus.

A further increase for shift workers of between 0.6 per cent and 1.6 per cent was also part of the deal.

He said: “Heinz asked Unite to call off the strike planned for yesterday and ballot workers on this further revised and improved deal and this has been accepted by the union team.

“We have worked hard to improve what we already believed was a very fair offer in order to bring an end to the dispute.

“Our offer is well above our competitors and UK average weekly earnings which are increasing by 1.7 per cent.”

He added that they would be writing independently to employees to share the full details of the improved deal to allow them to make their own decisions on what was now being offered.

“However, Unite believes the new offer, which represents only a small improvement, is less than our members deserve and certainly less than Heinz, should and could be paying.

“If workers reject the offer, a further stoppage will take place next Tuesday.”

Senior steward at Kitt Green Mick Quinn said that there were “marginal improvements” made to the company’s offer.

A spokesman for the company said: “Heinz asked Unite to call off the strike planned for yesterday and ballot workers on this further revised and improved deal and this has been accepted.

“We have worked hard to improve what we already believed was a very fair offer.

“Our offer is well above our competitors and UK average weekly earnings which are increasing by 1.7 per cent.”

He said they would be writing to employees to share the full details of the improved deal to allow them to make their own decisions on what was now being offered.