Staff at a popular food manufacturing facility in Kelloholm near Sanquhar have walked out over claims of poor pay and working conditions.

Workers at Browns Food Group say that the issue has remained unresolved for over a year, with staff being offered a "proportion of what the bosses are being offered".

Unite the union confirmed that around 180 members based at the Dumfriesshire food manufacturer started strike action on Monday, August 28 in a dispute over poverty pay.

Staff say that action could last up to seven weeks.

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One staff member, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "We've been trying to get better pay and working conditions for over a year.

"The company has quite a high turnover of staff because people now know what it's like to work there and people stay away from them now.

"All we want is to be paid fairly, because staff was cut during Covid, but they're still expecting the same level of production, which makes no sense.

"They don't care about their staff to be honest, as long as the people at the top are getting what they need.

"It could last seven weeks but they've already tried the scare tactics by telling us that the company could move to England if issues aren't resolved.

"We'll see what happens, but we aren't holding our breaths".

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Unite’s production, distribution and maintenance members based in Kelloholm, Sanquhar, emphatically rejected a pay offer from the company which equals the real Living Wage of £10.90 an hour.

An overtime ban is also in effect until September 18.

Unite the Union says that Browns Manufacturing Limited, which the company trades under, made a profit after tax of £5.2m in the year ending December 31, 2021.

The company is part of the wider Browns Food Group, which is owned and controlled by the Godfrey family.

Unite added that the wider Group recorded a profit of £9.2m, with £1.5m being paid out in dividends over the same time period, with the Group further recording a net cash position generated from its operational activities of £22.3m in 2021.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Unite’s members at Browns have emphatically rejected a poverty pay offer. The Browns Food Group, which owns the Kelloholm factory, is cash rich.

"It can well afford to give its workers a far bigger slice of the tens of millions it has sitting in the bank. Unite will always support our members fighting back for decent jobs, pay and conditions.” 

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A spokesperson for Browns Food Group said: "The management of Brown brothers has been committed to developing the site and workforce and expansion over the years has seen growth in all areas of the food supply chain, from hospitals  and schools to sandwich manufacturers and direct to supermarkets.

"The challenges that have faced the industry have been met over the years and we are proud of our workforce and factory and what we have achieved.

"2023/24 pay negotiation with the unite site representatives and regional organiser started early in the year with a significant request from the union for a 33 per cent increase on base wage from £9.75 to £13.00 per hour."

They added: "This unrealistic request was countered by Brown brothers numerous times over the last six months culminating in the last offer from Brown brothers to move all employees over 18 years old to £10.90 per hour base (this is the Real living wage) 11.8 per cent increase.

"This is in effect a minimum of £2,093 per year increase based on 35 hours per week. 

"We agreed that we would back date this to April 1, 2023 , in addition we will then pay the 2024/25 real living wage from April next year. Overtime rates apply over 35 hours Monday to Saturday would be £16.35 and on Sunday shift for overtime pays £21.80.

"Disappointingly when this has been put forward to ballot by the union, a majority of the members voted to reject it and industrial action has commenced.

"The disruption this will cause will inevitably have consequences to the business, employees and customer base."