Meat factory workers walk out amid 'poverty pay' dispute

It comes after some 180 workers rejected a pay offer from the company, which they say equals £10.90 an hour.

Browns meat factory workers in Dumfries walk out amid ‘poverty pay’ dispute Getty Images

Almost 200 workers at a Dumfries meat factory are striking amid a pay dispute they claim stems from a “poverty pay” offer.

Trade union Unite’s production, distribution and maintenance members based at food manufacturer Browns’ plant in Kelloholm, Sanquhar, began the strikes on Monday.

It comes after the around 180 workers rejected a pay offer from the company, which they say equals the real Living Wage of £10.90 an hour.

The workers will participate in three days of industrial action over a period of three consecutive weeks.

The first round begins on August 28 and ends on August 31, with an overtime ban also in effect until September 18.

The Dumfriesshire-based company specialises in the production and manufacturing of cooked and sliced meats for a large range of businesses, supermarkets and schools.

While it declined to provide a statement, the firm claimed that Unite’s strike numbers were false, in an effort to show the business in a false light.

It alleged that 72 people went against the offer to increase pay, whereas 60 voted to accept it – with the “actual number” of strike action takers unconfirmed.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Unite’s members at Browns have emphatically rejected a poverty pay offer.

“The Browns Food Group, which owns the Kelloholm factory, is cash rich. It can well afford to give its workers a far bigger slice of the tens of millions it has sitting in the bank.

“Unite will always support our members fighting back for decent jobs, pay and conditions.”

The union said that Browns Manufacturing Limited, which the company trades under, made a profit after tax of £5.2m in the year ending December 31, 2021.

The company is part of the wider Browns Food Group which is owned and controlled by the Godfrey family.

The wider group recorded a profit of £9.2m with £1.5m being paid out in dividends over the same time period.

It further recorded a net cash position generated from its operational activities of £22.3m in 2021.

The highest-paid director at Browns Food Group received a remuneration package totalling £223,000 in 2021.

Unite said that this is equivalent to nearly 10 times the pay of an average employee at Browns Manufacturing Limited.

Paul Bennett, Unite industrial officer, added: “Our members have no option but to take strike action because what’s currently on the table from Browns does nothing to help them make ends meet.”

“The company is in a very healthy financial position due to the hard work of our members, so it’s scandalous that they are treating the workforce with such contempt.

“Strike action will take place over a number of weeks and Browns should be under no illusion as to the determination of our members to secure a fair pay deal.”

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