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'There'll be no Pancake Tuesday in Northern Ireland': Bakery staff strike to hit pancake production

A Kingsmill bread lorry stopped at the entrance to the Allied Bakeries site in East Belfast today.

Image: Shutterstock/Natalia Van Doninck

Updated Feb 16th 2020, 1:40 PM

WORKERS HAVE PICKETED at the gates of one of Northern Ireland’s largest bakeries during strike action intended to disrupt Pancake Tuesday.

A Kingsmill bread lorry stopped at the entrance to the Allied Bakeries site in East Belfast today and police were involved in mediating with trade unionists amid an ongoing pay dispute. 

Unite the Union regional co-ordinating officer Susan Fitzgerald said: “There will be no Pancake Tuesday celebrated in Northern Ireland and we hope to affect it elsewhere as well.

“During this picket we will be sending people to stand outside supermarkets leafleting, saying that other working people, in solidarity with Allied Bakery workers, should boycott Sunblest, Kingsmill and the other products that come out of here.

“That includes a favourite unfortunately, pancakes, which are going to be in demand next week.”

Fitzgerald said this is the key week of production ahead of Pancake Tuesday – which falls on 25 February – adding: “We intend to disrupt that as much as we possibly can because we have no option.

“When working people are forced to go to this length for a fair pay increase, when this company pay out millions in bonuses to directors, we feel we are (getting) the support of ordinary people right across Northern Ireland and further afield.”

In a statement this afternoon, Allied Bakeries said: “We are proud of our reputation as a long-term and responsible local employer and deeply disappointed that union officials have rejected our latest pay offer in favour of industrial action.

“All employees involved are paid at rates above that recommended by the Living Wage Foundation and benefit from company subsidised pensions, free life insurance cover as well as a range of other benefits.

“We have increased our rates of pay every year for the past ten years and will do so again this year. In the meantime, contingency plans are in place and we do not expect supply of our core Sunblest, Kingsmill and own-label pancakes to be significantly impacted as we engage with our employees to resolve this dispute.”

BBC has reported that talks between the parties broke down on Friday.

Allied Bakeries is owned by Associated British Foods – an international company that owns a range of brands across different sectors, including Primark, and posted pre-tax profits of about £1.4bn (€1.6bn) last year, according to the BBC. 

“But according to its latest accounts, Allied Bakeries was operating at a loss, which had been reduced because of cost-cutting measures,” it said. 

The accounts also indicated lower reported sales.

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