MORE than 180 workers at the Coleford factory which makes Lucozade and Ribena have gone on strike over pay.

Employer  Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I  says it  has plans in place to keep shops supplied during the five days of industrial action.

It is the first time since 1976 that workers at the factory have gone on strike.

Talks to avoid strike action broke down last Thursday (February 1) and Unite the Union members voted to go ahead with the strike.

Workers started picketing the factory on Monday with a highly visible protest including flags and whistles. 

The union has said the strike will last five days.

Many drivers travelling along High Nash sounded their horns in support.

The union says workers received a two year pay deal effective from April 1 2022, with a commitment from the employer to review the second year’s increase, should inflation exceed five per cent between January to June 2023.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham said: “The inflation rate far exceeded this but the £1 billion Suntory Beverage & Food, which produces household name drinks including Lucozade Energy, Lucozade Sport and Ribena, has not met expectations in relation to this commitment.

“Suntory is awash with cash and it is reprehensible that it is has failed to give our members a fair pay increase.  

“Unite does what it says on the trade union tin and always puts the jobs, pay and conditions of its members first. The workers at Suntory have Unite’s complete support.”

The lack of loyalty to the deal”,there could be shortages of Lucozade and Ribena and result in empty supermarket shelves”. 

Unite regional officer, Michael Hobbs, speaking at the factory gate said: said: “There is a new management structure in here now and they are making changes and that is the crux of it – wages are the governing factor.

“The wage claim is a reasonable wage claim and the company are not even willing to discuss.

“They’ve made a token gesture of an offer but they are not taking it seriously and with the profitability of this plant it is not good enough.

“We had last ditch talks with them on Thursday and the offer was nowhere near good enough.

“The members balloted it over a 48-hour period and it was overwhelmingly rejected.

 “The strike action will inevitably result in shortages of consumers favourite drinks but Suntory has brought this strike on its self due to it unreasonable actions.

“Our members have been pushed to their limit because of the continuous disrespect shown by Suntory and its inability to address the current impact of the cost of living crisis on its workers.”

Karl Ottomar, Supply Chain Director at Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I said: “We are in active discussions with our trade union and our employee representatives to secure a fair and positive outcome for everyone. 

“Our current remuneration package makes us a very competitive employer in the region. 

“The employees taking part have received two pay increases in addition to a one-off additional payment since 2022 in recognition of their work and to support with the cost-of-living crisis. 

“We have also invested heavily in the modernisation of our historic Coleford site, including a £13m bottling line in 2020.  

“To support our trade customers, we have business continuity plans to ensure minimal disruption through this period. 

“During this week, the factory will remain open with production lines still producing drinks for customers nationwide. 

 “SBF GB&I remains committed to supporting all our employees, suppliers and customers, working with fairness and consistency.”