HEINZ workers have rejected the canned food giant’s improved pay deal.
The ballot result, announced yesterday afternoon means that the third 24-hour walk out will now take place this evening as previously planned.
Bosses said they were “extremely disappointed” with the result of the latest Kitt Green consultation of their 1,200 production workers.
But the Unite union said that it showed how determined the workforce at Europe’s biggest food plant were to win a “fair” salary package.
Workers voted by 698 to 368 to reject the deal – almost two to one in favour of continuing the strike.
But a spokesman for Heinz insisted that the there has clearly been a “significant loss” of support for further industrial action.
He added that the overall result would “leave many dismayed” because the new deal was worth more than an extra 10 per cent to the average worker’s wage at Kitt Green, the firm insisted.
Last week, at a pre-arranged meeting with shop stewards, Heinz increased the pay deal on offer by 0.6 per cent over two years, which was, claim the company, a “substantial move” aimed at resolving the dispute.
They claimed that in contrast Unite has yet to move from their position and accused the union of failing to enter into “meaningful and constructive” negotiations.
The spokesman said: “The outcome of the ballot is not a vote in support of jobs or future investment in manufacturing at Kitt Green.
“The site is already the most costly for labour across the Heinz manufacturing network in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. The action being orchestrated by Unite will only make Kitt Green less competitive.
“The poor absence record at Kitt Green, running at twice the national average, adds further cost.”
He pointed that Heinz remain a “top payer and top employer” and the workforce already receive 30 per cent more than the middle earnings level of those with similar jobs in industry.
Unite claim Heinz should pay more, but the firm maintain they have to remain competitive to ensure they can continue to pay above market pay increases.
The spokesman added: “We cannot afford to be complacent as we face rising commodity prices and have to take a responsible view of the long-term job prospects at Kitt Green.”
However the firm pledged that they will seek to arrange further meetings with the union to resolve the Unite had no one available to comment.