Chep UK: Why were workers on strike at Trafford Park pallet firm? And how much of a pay rise did they get?

Photo: Unite
Workers were able to win an above-inflation pay rise and better terms after taking lengthy industrial action

Workers who’d been on strike for 21 weeks are claiming victory after they accepted an increased pay offer of 9%, according to trade union Unite.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the victory is proof that Unite is dedicated to “improving the pay, terms and conditions of its members”.

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Why were workers on strike?

The longest running strike in Unite’s history has come to end following an improved offer at Chep UK, a pallet manufacturing facility in Manchester.

After four days of strike action and a ban on overtime which began in early December, workers called an all-out strike on 17 December.

Now almost four months on, workers are claiming victory after a campaign which saw protests, marches and pickets at the Trafford Park site and elsewhere.

Workers rejected an initial pay offer and further increases which would have seen their wages go up by less than inflation.

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They pointed to the company’s healthy profits, having enjoyed a relative ‘boom’ in recent years, as proof they could afford to up the offers.

Chep supplies pallets to companies across the North West and its major customers include InBev, Heinz, Heineken, A&B Containers, Encric and TDS.

According to the most recent accounts filings, Chep UK made after-tax profits of £55m on almost £400m revenue in 2021.

Unite regional officer Ian McCluskey said: “Chep has finally listened and acted. Thanks to the bravery of the workers at Trafford Park the company has delivered a pay deal that recognises the workers’ contribution through the pandemic and addresses the cost of living crisis. The workers can now get back to work with their heads held high.”

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How much of a pay increase did they win?

Unite says the workers have received a 9 per cent pay increase, worth an average of £2500.

Factoring in other elements of the deal, including a £1000 lump sum and three extra days of annual leave this year, Unite says the total package is worth as much as 14 per cent.

The rise does represent a real-terms increase at a time when real inflation (RPI) is at 9 per cent.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “I’m very proud of Unite’s reps and members at Chep. This was a tough dispute but the workers stood their ground and won an excellent deal. The workers knew that the company could afford a fair wage so they kept up the fight and they won.

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“This victory is more proof that Unite is, without a doubt, dedicated to improving the pay, terms and conditions of its members.”

A spokesperson for CHEP told NationalWorld that the figures quoted by the union “are an interpretation of our offer,” but stressed that an agreement has been reached and thanked the union for their “collaboration over the last few weeks”.

They said: “As part of our annual pay review process, we have offered competitive pay and employee benefit proposals to all our employees in our UK network for the next two fiscal years.

“We are very pleased that our 2-year pay offer has now also been accepted by our workers at our Manchester Trafford Park site, along with all other CHEP service centres across our network.”

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