Members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, employed by pharmaceutical giant GSK, are to be balloted for strike action in a dispute over pay.

The 1,000 plus workers have been offered a pay increase of just 2.75 per cent.  An offer of four per cent could be available but with considerable strings attached, which Unite has also rejected.

Both offers would amount to a pay cut in real terms, with the current inflation rating standing at 7.8 per cent (retail price index).

The ballot for industrial action will open on Friday, 25 March and close on Tuesday 19 April. A vote for industrial action will see strikes begin later this spring, causing disruption and product shortages.

In 2021, GSK, which produces household medicines like Sensodyne and Panadol along with medications for combatting critical illnesses, made £6.2 billion in profits. The company’s chief executive Emma Walmsley saw her pay increase by 17 per cent last year, receiving £8.2 million.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is a cast iron example of corporate greed. GSK can easily afford to pay our members a decent pay increase. Instead they are making a pathetic offer to our members while the bosses line their pockets.”

 “Unite will be giving our members at GSK its full backing until this dispute is resolved.”

The workers undertake a variety of roles at the company including: engineers, technicians, laboratory analysts, warehouse workers, firefighters and labourers. They produce a host of well-known products including leading medications for sufferers of cancer and HIV.

Unite national officer for pharmaceuticals Tony Devlin said: “Unite’s members at GSK are balloting for strike action as a last resort.  The union has exhausted all other avenues to resolve this dispute through negotiations.

 “GSK needs to understand the strength of feeling of our members on pay. Industrial action could be averted if it returns to the negotiating table and makes a pay offer in line with workers expectations.”

The announcement of the industrial action ballot will be an embarrassment for the company, causing uncertainty ahead of a demerger later this year when it intends to spin off its consumer healthcare business into a new operation called Haleon. 

Unite’s members are being balloted at these sites: Montrose and Irvine in Scotland; Ware in Hertfordshire; Worthing in West Sussex; Barnard Castle in Durham; and Ulverston in Cumbria.


Notes to editors:

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

 For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.