Unite confirms all out strike action will commence at Belfast Bakery from 6am on Sunday 5th March

Union warns strike is likely to impact bread supplies on shelves across Northern Ireland

Workers of Unite the union have voted by a margin of more than 95 percent for strike action in pursuit of a cost of living pay increase at Hovis, the leading Belfast Bakery. Unite has notified the employer that continuous (that is all-out) strike action will commence this Sunday 5th March with strike pickets going up at the Bakery at 6am that morning.

While workers have watched their disposable incomes collapse with the surge in inflation, Hovis has enjoyed bumper sales during the Covid pandemic and in its aftermath. Turnover rose 8 percent in 2020 and rose marginally further in 2021 to £361.2 million. The company has managed to maintain profitability throughout and its profits for 2021 have been boosted through what they deemed a ‘bargain purchase’ of assets which raised the group’s headline (pre-tax) profits for the 14 months to the end of 2021 to £47.3 million.

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham expressed her union’s support for the Hovis workers as they prepare to take strike action:

“Hovis has enjoyed huge success during the Covid pandemic and in the period following it. The group posted pre-tax profits of almost £50 million in 2021 and is a well-funded business with a strong balance sheet. The company can well afford to increase the pay of these workers to provide some protection from the surge in inflation.

“Unite has established a £70 million strike fund which we are deploying to back workers in struggle. The workforce in Hovis know that Unite has their back as they seek to win a cost of living increase from their employer.”

Regional Officer for the workforce, Sean McKeever, issued a last-minute call for management to address the workers’ pay claim and avoid an unnecessary strike.

“In repeated strikes over the last few years, the Hovis workforce has repeatedly demonstrated their willingness and determination to secure improvements to their pay and conditions. A ballot of more than 95 percent for strike action should surely force some reconsideration by management.

“It is still not too late for management to address our members’ pay claim and avoid this strike action. A strike by our members will shutdown production at Hovis’ Belfast production site and is likely to hugely impact the availability of Bread on supermarket shelves across Northern Ireland. Management have it within their power to avoid this unnecessary outcome. My members stand determined to win a cost of living pay improvement – what is on offer is nothing short of an insult. These workers deserve better.”