UK facing Christmas pickle crisis

Industrial action at pickled onion factory Mizkan in Rochdale intensifies over miserly 5% pay offer

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Lovers of some of UK’s most popular pickles face being denied their favourite condiments this Christmas as strike action at the Mizkan Euro factory in Rochdale intensifies in a dispute over pay.

The factory produces Haywards Pickled Onions, Sarsons Vinegar and Haywards Pickled Vegetables. The 50 plus workers, who are members of Unite, the UK leading union, have already taken 19 days of strike action since October.

The strike action is a result of the company only being prepared to offer its workers a five per cent pay increase, with the real inflation rate (RPI) now standing at 14.2 per cent, this is a very substantial real terms pay cut.

Due to the just in time nature of supermarket deliveries, the strike action will almost inevitably create severe shortages at a time of year when many consumers relish these products, often with cold meat and cheese. Pickled unions and pickled vegetables are at the highest demand at this time of year.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Mizkan is a very lucrative multinational company that could easily make a fair pay offer to its workers at the Rochdale factory but it has chosen not to. Mizkan’s actions are all about the greed for profit and not the needs of its workers.

“Our members at Mizkan have Unite’s complete support and the union will now be escalating this dispute.”

The workforce have a further 13 days of strike action scheduled. They are on strike today (Thursday 1 December), 2 December, Monday 5 until Saturday 10 December and Monday 12 December until Friday 16 December.

In addition to the industrial action, Unite will be looking to step up its action by targeting the company’s customers, suppliers, distributors and warehouses.

Mizkan Euro is very lucrative company. Last year it recorded a gross profit of £24 million on a turnover of £98 million. Mizkan Euro is the European subsidiary of Mizkan Group, the largest sushi seasoning company in the world. Meanwhile, the workforce are paid as little as £11.50 an hour.

Unite regional officer Andrena Clarke added, “Lovers of pickled onions will be fearful that they will be denied their favourite products this Christmas but this is a dispute entirely of Mizkan’s own making. Unite has given the company every opportunity to make a decent offer but it has declined to do so.

“Mizkan needs to drop its belligerent attitude to its loyal workforce and get back round the negotiating table and make a fair offer.”

By Barckley Sumner