Christmas is a traditional time to get a tipple in for many people across the country. However, the Great British pastime might be in jepoardy for some this year after it was announced that union members at brewery Greene King have decided to strike over pay.
Workers are said to have decided on strike action walking out after receiving a “pitiful” pay offer from bosses. Greene King said the offer was made in the spring, when inflation was lower. The dispute comes as thousands of workers across several industries stage similar walkouts, including rail workers and teachers.
The timing of the strikes means that trade union Unite has warned customers could be facing a “Christmas beer drought”. However, if union members and bosses are able to come to a pay agreement soon, strikes could be called off.
The strike will include staff at sites which brew and distribute Greene King products. This includes products such as Old Speckled Hen and Abbot Ale. But when are staff out on strike - and how long will it last? Here’s everything you need to know.
Why are Greene King staff striking?
The pay offer currently on the table for Greene King brewery staff is a 3% increase along with a one-off payment of £650. Trade union Unite had described the offer as “pitiful”. Greene King has said it was made before inflation was rampant.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham added that the offer was a “real terms pay cut”. She said: “Greene King’s owners are incredibly wealthy, the failure to offer workers a decent pay rise is all about greed and not about need.
“Unite, which is now entirely focussed on defending the jobs, pay and conditions of its members, will not idly stand by while a wealthy company tries to further boost its profits by subjecting its workers to substantial real terms pay cuts. Unite members at Greene King will receive the union’s complete and total support throughout their dispute.”
When is the Greene King strike taking place?
Greene King union members first staged a strike between 5 and 9 December, and returned to work on 10 December. However, Unite has now confirmed that staff are set to strike again over the Cristmas period.
Union members at the Bury St Edmunds, Eastwood and Abington sites will walk out on 21 December until 23 December. Further strike action is expected between 28 and 31 December if an agreement has not been met between the union and Greene King bosses.
Unite regional officer Mark Jaina said: “The strike action will inevitably result in beer shortages this Christmas and New Year but this dispute is entirely down Greene King’s own refusal to make a fair pay offer. The workers decision to announce a further seven days of strike action is proof that they remain determined. It’s time the company stopped playing Scrooge and started genuine pay talks.”
Will Greene King pubs be shut during strike action?
The strike will only involve brewery staff, which means that the only part of the business which will be affected is the production of their own beers and lagers. Staff at Greene King’s 3,100 pubs, restaurants and hotels are not involved in the strike.
Greene King has said pubs will remain open during this time. However, there may be a so-called “drought” of own-brand beer.
What has Greene King said?
A Greene King spokesperson told NationalWorld: “The majority of our brewing and distribution teams have continued to work and we are incredibly grateful for their hard work and commitment, which has meant disruption has been kept to a minimum and we were able to complete all the deliveries our customers were expecting last week. We’ve met regularly with members of Unite over the past few months since the pay rise offer in May and explained how we aim to be fair and consistent across our business, given the challenging wider economic environment currently.
“We are disappointed Unite has not come back to us with sustainable options to discuss and a minority is attempting to disrupt deliveries to pubs. We have robust contingency plans in place so that pubs continue receiving deliveries from us across Christmas and beyond, at a time when pubs need all the support they can get ahead of what look like an incredibly challenging January and February.”