Customers of some of the UK’s largest food and drink outlets have been warned that packaging shortages are likely after workers at Cepac in Darlington began four weeks of strikes over pay and conditions.

Four weeks of strikes 

Over 90 workers at the Darlington company will begin 4 weeks of strike action beginning at 06:00 on Monday 14 August and ending at 05:59 on Monday 11 September.

Cepac produces corrugated packaging. Its clients include: HBCP (whose customers include Greggs, Costa, Subway and Pret) along with C&D Foods Group (whose customers include Aldi, Tesco, Morrisons and Asda). Other Cepac customers include Mars, Carlsberg, Innocent Drinks, Pernod, Lidl, Sainsbury and Diageo.

Given the just in time nature of the food, drink and retail sectors, supplies the packaging companies require will swiftly run out.

Strings attached

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Cepac’s pay offer has more strings attached than an orchestra, there is no way our members will accept worse conditions. This is a wealthy company that can fully afford to make a fair pay offer but is instead trying to cut terms to boost profits.

“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 Cepac will receive the union’s complete support.”

Goodwill run out 

Unite has postponed previous planned strikes to hold further talks and seek an agreement. However, workers have rejected the company’s latest offer. Cepac offered an eight per cent pay increase but with significant detrimental conditions including longer hours, lower overtime rates and a change in shift patterns.

Industrial relations have further deteriorated as Cepac has said that if members do not agree to the inferior conditions, then it will impose them on the workforce.

Cepac is a profitable company and can afford to improve its offer. The firm’s latest accounts for 2021 lodged at Companies House show the company made a gross profit of £34 million.

Packaging shortages 

Unite regional officer Pat McCourt said: “Strike action is set to cause shortages of packaging across the food, drink and retail industry but this dispute is entirely of Cepac’s own making.

“Unite has bent over backwards to try to secure an agreement and not only has the company refused to listen, it is making further threats to our members. Cepac needs to return to negotiations with an offer our members can accept.”


Notes to editors

Darlington Cepac print strikes escalate in pay dispute 

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham