Strikes spark Xmas beer shortage fears

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Playing Scrooge: Greene King brewery workers strike over Christmas after refusing pay increase offer (Credit: Getty/Monty Rakusen)
Playing Scrooge: Greene King brewery workers strike over Christmas after refusing pay increase offer (Credit: Getty/Monty Rakusen)

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Pubs could “run out” of “popular” beers over Christmas and New Year as Greene King brewery workers take further strike action during the festive period.

Workers at multiple sites downed tools yesterday (Wednesday 21 December) and will proceed to strike until Friday 23 December with additional walkouts planned between Wednesday 28 and Friday 31 December as disputes regarding pay increases continue. 

Supplies of beers and ales to pubs, restaurants and shops including IPA, Old Speckled Hen and Abbot Ale could be affected by the strikes according to Unite, however Greene King have disputed this and assured supply would not be impacted. 

This comes as previous industrial action​ at the beginning of December also sparked fears of beer shortages.

Playing Scrooge 

Unite regional officer Mark Jaina said: “The strike action means popular beers like Old Speckled Hen could run out this Christmas and New Year but this dispute is entirely down Greene King’s refusal to make a fair pay offer.

“The workers are standing firm and action will spread into 2023. It’s time the company stopped playing Scrooge and started genuine pay talks.”

More than half (56%) of the 188 workers and Unite union members, including production and distribution workers as well as drivers and draymen, voted in favour of the strike and refused Greene King’s revised offer, which included a 3% pay increase and a one-off payment of £650 from the business in a two year pay deal.

Though with the real inflation rate standing at 14%, this would result in a “very substantial” real terms wage cut, according to the union.

Moreover, Greene King’s owners, Hong Kong company CK Bidco, which took on the business in a deal​ worth £2.7bn in 2019, are “incredibly wealthy” and its workers should be “paid fairly”, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said.

She added: “Workers are being offered a pay cut dressed up as a pay rise.

“Unite members at Greene King will receive the union’s complete and total support throughout their dispute.

Minimise disruption 

“Greene King management need to return to the negotiating table with a substantially improved pay offer.”

However, Greene King assured it was still continuing to complete all expected deliveries to more than 6,000 pubs and that any further action in January was "unlikely to have any significant impact".

Furthermore, the business claimed all salaried staff that are not members of Unite and accepted the pay offer received the pay rise in May this year.

A Greene King spokesperson said: “We’re disappointed Unite encouraged some of its members to reject our pay offer from May, meaning all its members are yet to receive the pay rise that other salaried staff received more than six months ago.

"We believe our pay rise offer is fair and consistent across our business and the wider industry, particularly with the extremely challenging costs the whole pubs and brewing sector is facing now.

"We’re incredibly grateful to the majority of our brewing and distribution teams whose hard work and commitment has helped to nullify any impact from this industrial action so that pubs across the country continue to receive their deliveries in time for Christmas and the New Year.”

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