Hovis employees in Belfast vote for strike action

Bakery workforce of 250 supplies retailers including Lidl, M&S and Tesco

Workers at one of the North’s largest bakeries have voted for strike action in a dispute over pay, with union leaders warning that the Hovis workforce in Belfast are “not going to accept only the crumbs off the table”.

Hovis, which has a workforce of about 250 at its Belfast bakery, produces a range of in-house bakery brands such as Hovis, Nimble, Ormo and Mother’s Pride and also own-label products for some of Britain’s biggest retailers including Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Lidl.

Sean McKeever, regional officer with the trade union Unite, said the strike action is scheduled to start at the Hovis plant in Belfast from midnight on Thursday.

He warned that the proposed strike could cause “considerable disruption” to bread supplies across Northern Ireland but said workers in Belfast “want to earn more than a crust”.


“If you strip away their shift premiums, bonuses and overtime payments, workers at Hovis’s Boucher Road site have a basic pay rate 90 pence below the national minimum wage,” Mr McKeever said. “The workers are seeking a pay uplift of 5.1 per cent, equivalent to 37 pence an hour on their basic rate.”


He said management at Hovis had refused to meet the pay claim in recent pay talks.

In a statement to The Irish Times, Hovis said it was disappointed that its employees in Belfast had voted for strike action.

“We have subsequently entered into further discussions in good faith and have improved our offer. It is disappointing to see no movement from the unions in these negotiations with no indication that our revised offer will be put to members to vote. We remain very open to discussions and are committed to finding a resolution,” Hovis said.

Mr McKeever said that pickets are still planned to take place outside the plant from Friday morning.

“The strike action will be continuous; it is an all-out strike as the workers are determined to secure themselves fair pay.”

The union believes workers in the bakery sector across the North are not paid a fair wage. “Unite is also separately balloting our members at the other main bread manufacturer in Northern Ireland, Allied Bakeries,” Mr McKeever said.

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business