Heinz boss says plant is already ‘high cost’

Heinz staff on pickett lines as they strike outside their Kitt Green plant
Heinz staff on pickett lines as they strike outside their Kitt Green plant

HEINZ bosses have sent a strong warning to striking workers.

The company took out a full page advertisement in the Wigan Evening Post yesterday to tell more than 1,200 production workers who walked out for 24 hours in protest at their 3.3 per cent pay offer: ‘Your pay is already among the best in the country.’

They also warned the workforce - ominously - that the giant Kitt Green plant which produces a million and a half cans of baked beans a day was already their “highest cost” factory in Europe.

Vice President of Supply Jaap Wilbers chose to speak out as the union chiefs confirmed a second 24-hour walk-out starting at 5.50am next Tuesday.

The union Unite are yet to respond publicly to the company’s claims.

In the advertisement, a copy of which was also sent to the home of each striker by the company, Mr Wilbers warned that any industrial action will be “so critical” to long term decisions made about the Kitt Green plant’s future in the Heinz manufacturing network, investment and future jobs.

He said that he was speaking out now to “set the record straight.”

Mr Wilbers said: “In comparison with corresponding pay deals around the local area and the remainder of the food and drink industry, it compares well and in most cases out performs industry benchmarks.

“Other workers in the food industry are facing job cuts and plant closures.

“It has been suggested that Heinz is recession-proof but this is simply not true.

“We cannot afford to be complacent and there are big commodity increases immediately facing us in UK including tin plate and tomatoes and these need to be addressed because we have to remain competitive.

“The UK has lost a great many jobs over the last 15 years due to being uncompetitive.

“Kitt Green is the highest cost factory across Heinz Europe for labour.

“Together we have been working very hard over the past two years to protect our current business and attract further investment.

“I truly believe that, as a result, we can make Kitt Green a more attractive place for investment and for growing the range of products we produce on site.

“But it is a competitive world in which we live and the cost of doing business at Kitt Green is higher than other Heinz European options.”

He said that Heinz customers who rely on their “great value staples” and are seeing jobs lost, earnings frozen or rises significantly less than the 3.3 per cent they have offered would be “baffled” by the strike action. Mr Wilbers said: “This is a potential blow to the loyalty they have for the brand they love.

“We all work for a great company with a long heritage, but the actions taken over the coming weeks will have consequences for all of us both short and long term.

“Industrial action damages all our futures.”

He added that “working closely with Unite” they have consolidated a “significant part” of each employee’s performance related bonus payments into their base earnings, but this consolidation appeared to have been forgotten.