Mill workers employed by feed and nutrition product manufacturer, AB Agri, are being balloted for strike action in relation to pay, UK union, Unite, reported on Thursday, February 15.
The workers, which are based at mills in Bury St Edmonds in Suffolk, Walsingham in Norfolk, Flixborough in Lincolnshire, Sherburn in North Yorkshire, Cupar in Fife, Enstone in Oxfordshire, Cullompton in Devon and Fridaythrope in East Yorkshire, have rejected an imposed pay offer of 4.5%. With the real rate of inflation, RPI, running at 13.4%, this is not a realistic pay offer, said the union.
“AB Agri’s latest financial report shows it had a turnover of £955m (US$1,149m) for the year ending August 31, 2021. AB Agri owner, ABF, reported group revenues of £6.7bn over the four months to 7 January 2023," noted Unite.
ABF's financial report from November 2022 reported that AB Agri had a good year, with sales well ahead of the year prior, coupled with higher selling prices, and higher adjusted operating profit as well.
Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said that AB Agri and ABF can absolutely afford to put forward a better offer. “We are determined to ensure that they do so.”
The workers are being balloted until March 8. Any strike action would cause significant disruption to the operations of AB Agri mills. The dispute is also over the company’s reported failure to recognize the mill workers as a national bargaining unit represented by Unite.
Unite said the company’s efforts to undermine collective bargaining and its refusal to allow staff, mainly at its Flixborough site in Lincolnshire, to pursue voluntary redundancy are at odds with its membership of the Ethical Trading Initiative.
“Unite is determined to defend these workers, secure recognition for our union and deliver an offer our members can accept,” added Unite regional officer, Mark Jaina.
AB Agri has been expanding its reach of late, acquring UK assets. In December last year, it purchased the dairy consultancy business, Kite Consulting, and its associated company, Advance Sourcing, for an undisclosed sum. It said both companies would complement its existing dairy business.
July 2022 saw it acquire Greencoat Limited, the animal supplement and care business that includes the NAF, NutriLabs, Natural VetCare and Greencoat Farm brands. Greencoat’s products are well known in the UK and EU, including the flagship NAF Five Star brand, which is synonymous with equine supplements across Europe.