Unite, the UK’s leading union, has warned Darlington print company Cepac that it faces legal action if it follows through with redundancy threats at the plant because of ongoing industrial action.

Unite members began eight weeks of strike action on Monday 14 August in a dispute over pay, because of the company failing to enter into meaningful negotiations.

Job threat

Rather than resolve the pay issue, the company has instead announced that it is considering making 61 redundancies as a result of a downturn of work due to industrial action. Unite has warned that if the company goes ahead with the job cuts, it will support workers with unfair dismissal claims. It has further warned that if the company attempts to pay redundancy pay at a lower rate than previously, this will result in a further legal challenge.

Despicable actions

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The actions of Cepac are despicable, they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. If they think their underhand and potentially illegal actions will force Unite to take a step back in the fight for fair pay for Cepac workers, then they have entirely miscalculated the union’s laser like focus on always fighting for the jobs, pay and conditions of its members.”

Low pay offer

The strikes are 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.

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.

Packaging crisis

Unite regional officer Pat McCourt said: “The ongoing industrial action is creating major problems for Cepac’s customers which will only become more severe the longer the strike action continues but this is entirely of the company’s own making.

“Unite has been fully prepared to enter into negotiations to resolve the dispute but Cepac would rather threaten workers’ jobs, rather than come to a fair agreement.”


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.