Wakefield Coca-Cola workers in strike ballot

Workers at the country's largest soft drinks factory could take the fizz out of the World Cup summer in a row over employment conditions and bargaining rights.

Staff at drinks giant and tournament sponsor Coca-Cola's huge Wakefield plant will be among those balloted for industrial action.

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Unite and the GMB unions said the ballot results will be known at the end of the month, with any action likely to be held in July.

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Workers at 12 sites across the UK, including Wakefield, will start voting on Friday, the first day of the World Cup.

The unions claim the company is refusing to consult on major changes to conditions of employment, and is not negotiating on basic pay increases.

GMB official Alan Costello said: "The Coca-Cola workforce are seeking

national bargaining and the management have turned this down. The next step is to move to a formal ballot for strike action as employees have already voted by 96 per cent in a consultative ballot to take strike action to secure national bargaining covering all the sites."

Unite national officer Jennie Formby said: "Presumably, Coca-Cola Enterprise (CCE) understands that the World Cup it sponsors stands for fair play, but where is the fair play in sneakily attacking members' pay and pensions while freezing the workers' representatives out of any discussions on the matter?"

Coca-Cola's Wakefield plant recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.

The factory opened in 1989 as part of an original investment of 90m and over the past two decades has seen a further investment of 150m.

A company spokesman said: "CCE is very disappointed by the trade unions' intent to ballot for industrial action. We remain in and are committed to dialogue with all our employees and with the unions, and we firmly believe this offers the prospect of a constructive outcome – unlike industrial action.

"In the current economic climate, the pay rises that CCE is offering are very competitive. Top of our agenda for discussion with the unions is agreeing the right approach to managing future pay negotiations.

"Changes to our defined benefit pension scheme followed a full consultation process directly with our employees and employee representatives.

"The defined benefit pension scheme will remain in place. It will now be more sustainable for the future and remains a very competitive and positive benefit for employees who are members."

Martin Fisher

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