The packaging crisis affecting many of the UK’s most popular food and drink companies, including bakers Greggs and sandwich chain, Pret A Manger is set to deepen after workers announced a further two weeks of strike action.

Extended strike action

The 90 plus workers, who are members of Unite, the UK’s largest union, and employed by Cepac in Darlington began four weeks of strike action last week (Monday 14 August). Due to the company’s failure to engage in any meaningful negotiations, Unite has given notice of a further two weeks of strike action, meaning industrial action will now run continuously until Monday 25 September

The dispute is a result of Cepac only being prepared to offer an eight per cent pay increase, which is below the true inflation rate (RPI) of nine per cent. Additionally, the offer is subject to the workers accepting substantially worse conditions including longer hours, lower overtime rates and a change in shift patterns. The offer is in effect, a significant pay cut.

Greed not need

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Cepac’s actions are all about greed, not need. This is a company that can make a fair pay offer but is attempting to boost its profits by making its employees work longer and under worse conditions.”

Cepac produces corrugated packaging. Its clients include: HBCP (whose customers include Greggs, Costa, Subway and Pret A Manger) 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’s and Diageo.

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.

Alarmed consumers 

Unite regional officer Pat McCourt said: “Consumers across the UK are becoming increasingly alarmed that they will struggle to purchase their favourite food and drink due to the growing packaging crisis. This dispute is exclusively of Cepac’s own making, the company pay offer along with the changes to terms and conditions would actually make our members worse off.”


Notes to editors

Greggs, Costa, Subway and Pret, facing packaging crisis as Darlington Cepac print workers announce four weeks of strikes

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications advisor Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235.

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.