A week-long strike at Suntory Beverage & Food (SBF) GB&I’s Coleford factory in Gloucestershire, which bottles Ribena and Lucozade products, starts today and could “swiftly lead to empty supermarket shelves”, trade union Unite has stated. 

SBF GB&I claimed that disruption to supply would be “minimal”, despite over 180 workers striking because of a pay dispute.

Unite claimed the firm had “failed to address the cost of living crisis”. It said that workers received a two year pay deal effective from April 1 2022, with a commitment from the employer to review the second year’s increase, should inflation exceed five per cent between January to June 2023.

The inflation rate far exceeded this, but Unite claimed Suntory had “not met expectations in relation to this commitment”.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Suntory is awash with cash and it is reprehensible that it is has failed to give our members a fair pay increase.”

Unite regional officer, Michael Hobbs, added: “The strike action will inevitably result in shortages of consumers favourite drinks but Suntory has brought this strike on itself due to it unreasonable actions.

“Our members have been pushed to their limit because of the continuous disrespect shown by Suntory and its inability to address the current impact of the cost of living crisis on its workers.”

SBF GB&I responded, claiming that it was committed to supporting its staff and that the factory would remain open.

Karl Ottomar, supply chain director, SBF GB&I, said: “Our current remuneration package makes us a very competitive employer in the region. The employees taking part have received two pay increases in addition to a one-off additional payment since 2022 in recognition of their work and to support with the cost-of-living crisis.
“We have also invested heavily in the modernisation of our historic Coleford site, including a £13m bottling line in 2020. 
“To support our customers, we have business continuity plans to ensure minimal disruption through this period. During this week, the factory will remain open with production lines still producing drinks for customers nationwide.

“SBF GB&I remains committed to supporting all our employees, suppliers and customers, working with fairness and consistency.”