Jammie Dodgers and Wagon Wheels under threat as factory workers go on strike

By Iain Swanson

Production of some of Britain’s favourite biscuits will be halted over the next month, a union claimed today as it announced strike action at an Edinburgh factory.

Workers at Burton’s Biscuits Co are set to walk out in protest at what the GMB union called a “derisory” pay offer.

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GMB members at the manufacturing plant voted by an overwhelming majority of 91 per cent for industrial action after management refused to increase a 1.6 per cent offer for the next year.

An indefinite work to rule and overtime ban will start on 8 September from 2pm before a 24-hour strike on 9 September, the first of a series of such stoppages strikes throughout September.

The union says the biscuit manufacturer - which produces staple household brands like Jammie Dodgers and Wagon Wheels - is owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan which hold net assets worth a “staggering” $204.7 billion.

More than 400 workers are employed at the Edinburgh factory, which produced around 7.5 million biscuits a day.

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'Taking the biscuit'

At the start of lockdown the company was at the centre of a row over union allegations it was failing to meet government guidelines over physical distancing and PPE and pressurising staff to go to work.

Now the flashpoint is pay. GMB Scotland organiser Benny Rankin said: “Burton’s stubborn stance on this year’s pay offer is an insult to staff that have worked throughout the lockdown at management’s insistence.

“In March staff were told they were part of the key worker response and despite serious health and safety concerns over working practices, our members did what needed to be done for this business.

“Burton’s derisory pay offer holds a mirror up to this management – they clearly do not value the contribution of their staff and have no interest in recognising and rewarding them properly.

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“And after previous concerns over management’s ability to adhere to the Covid guidelines on workplace safety, Burton’s are taking the biscuit again over their workers’ pay and conditions.

“Their refusal to meaningfully engage with a workforce that deserve so much better means we have been left with little choice but to strike for a decent pay offer.”

September strikes

Three 24-hour strikes have been scheduled by the GMB for September. The first will start on Wednesday at 6am and run until the same time on Thursday.

Similar stoppages are then due to take place the following to weeks, in each case starting at 6am on the Wednesday and lasting until the same time the next day.

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Sales of Wagon Wheels were reported to have risen by about a third during the coronavirus lockdown as people tucked into favourite snacks.

But even in January biscuit sales were said to be booming with the growth of cereal biscuits slowing.

The company declined to comment on the planned industrial action.

This story first appeared in our sister title Edinburgh Evening News.