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Pay dispute at Greene King as shareholders back £2.7 billion takeover

A union is threatening Greene King with industrial action over a 'paltry' pay offer after shareholders backed a £2.7 billion takeover of the pubs giant.

Unite has told the management at the company's Bury St Edmunds headquarters that it is preparing for an industrial action ballot after it says about 200 members in the brewing and brands department rejected the offer of a two per cent pay rise for 2019/2020.

Greene King says the offer is 'fair and consistent given the challenging wider economic environment'.

Greene King, in Westgate Street, Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton
Greene King, in Westgate Street, Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton

Yesterday, Greene King shareholders backed a £2.7 billion takeover by Hong Kong firm CK Noble (CK Bidco), part of the CKA Group founded by Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing.

CKA shareholders also approved its purchase of Greene King, which runs more than 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels across the UK and employs 38,000 people.

Unite has more than 250 members, including draymen, brewery production staff and warehouse workers, at the brewery which was founded in 1799.

Greene King, in Westgate Street, Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton
Greene King, in Westgate Street, Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton

Unite’s members are in Bury St Edmunds, as well as at distribution centres in Abingdon, Oxfordshire and Eastwood, Nottinghamshire.

The union is also seeking reassurances about job security.

Mark Jaina, Unite regional officer, said: "Our members are fed up with being palmed off with a paltry two per cent rise which has been the norm for the last six or seven years.

"That figure is way below the soaring cost of living and, as a result, our members have seen a serious erosion of their incomes in real terms during that period.

"A new senior management team is playing hardball and Unite won’t tolerate this insulting treatment on pay. We expect to start balloting for industrial action by the end of the month.

"We are also seeking further clarity on future job security now that the takeover has been overwhelmingly approved by Greene King shareholders.

"We have had two meetings with management since the takeover was revealed in August, but the information disclosed, so far, is scanty, despite media reports that pub closures could be on the cards."

When the takeover was announced in August, the companies said that CK Bidco had no plans to 'make material changes' to staff employment and did not intend to 'initiate any material headcount reductions within the Greene King organisation as a result of the acquisition'.

A Greene King spokesman said: "We are disappointed Unite has chosen to reject our pay offer as well as other benefits.

"This offer is fair and consistent across the brewing division, especially given the challenging wider economic environment and we have explained this to Unite in a number of meetings.

"We reject Unite’s claim that we have not provided information on the proposed recommended cash offer from CKA.

"We sought a meeting with Unite in August and explained the assurances given as part of the announcement."

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