By Tim Nailsea
Sixty-five workers at Chep UK have rejected the pallet supply company’s latest below-inflation pay offer. This means that the strike, which has lasted 5 months already and is currently the country’s longest ongoing dispute, may continue into the summer.
The workers at the Trafford Park site will be balloted from Thursday 21 April to Thursday 5 May for further action.
The strikers’ demand is for just a 5% pay increase, yet since the dispute started in December the rate of inflation has continued to rise and RPI now stands at 9%. Chep UK is an extremely profitable company, repairing and supplying pallets to companies such as Heinz, Coca-Cola and Heineken. Its post-tax profits last year topped £50m and it would need to hand over only £67,000 of that to meet its workers’ demands.
Unite and supporters of the strike have also put pressure on Chep’s partners and customers, such as Costco where they have leafleted customers about the dispute. In April hundreds marched through Manchester in support of the strike. Unite has also called on Chep’s parent company Bramble to take responsibility for the prolonged dispute.
Cost of living
The fight at Chep is an example of how attacks on the cost of living are eroding workers’ pay, while bosses continue to profit. Chep UK’s profits soared during the pandemic, but it refuses to pay the workers whose labour created those profits enough to meet the rise in the cost of living that has resulted from it. That these workers have been forced to strike just to try and keep up with the cost of living shows just how far the bosses are willing to go to hold on to every penny.
This is not just an issue that is facing Chep workers – many of us across the country continue to scrape by on increasingly low pay, with the cost of food, energy and other essentials going through the roof and National Insurance set to rise as well. Union leaders should be launching a national campaign against the Tories’ cost of living crisis, with threats of united strike action over pay if demands are not met.