Crumbs! Tunnocks workers go on strike

Put that biscuit down. Industrial action puts the British tea-time at risk.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

When BA workers went on strike, we gritted our teeth and booked train tickets. When tube workers went on strike, we sighed and took to the buses. Now, though, industrial action threatens to strike a blow at the very heart of British life: tea-time is under threat. Workers at the Tunnock’s biscuit factory in Lanarkshire, which manufactures snacks like Tunnock’s teacakes, Caramel Wafers and Snowballs, have gone on strike for the second day after the company failed to offer them the pay rise they had hoped for. And while the Unite union says its workers are ‘determined to get a fair and improved pay offer’, millions of Brits are just worried about how it will impact their tea breaks.

About 500 of the factory’s workers voted for the walkout last week, after a 2% pay offer was rejected. But the union in charge of the action, Unite (natch) says it’s not aware of a formal offer being made, adding that the management has had the ‘audacity to put out conflicting information regarding any offers.’ Hmm. And given that the factory manufactures about 350 tea-cakes a second, workers say halting production ‘severely hit’ the company.

But Tunnock’s isn’t necessarily in a position to sweeten the deal: while the company’s turnover grew from £31.8m to £35.6m between 2008 and 2009, its pre-tax profits dropped, from £1.35m to £1.05m. And when it came to celebrating the company’s 120th anniversary earlier this year, managing director Boyd Tunnock even had to dig into his own pockets, paying for a party at Glasgow’s Hilton hotel with his own money. So it doesn’t look as though there’s much chance of an improved offer being made anytime soon.

The good news is that while the union is threatening further strikes, workers don’t seem so sure. ‘There’s a determination, but workers are reluctant because they value Tunnock’s as a brand’, admitted union regional industrial organiser Derek Ormston, in an interview with the Guardian.

So perhaps it’s not the pay issue getting workers all hot under the collar. Perhaps they were just looking for an excuse to take an extended tea-break…

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