GRIMSBY based Icelandic Seachill, makers of the highly successful Saucy Fish brand, is facing the possibility of industrial action.
The Unite union has accused the company of paying for the new ‘national living wage’ by cutting overtime rates.
Unite says on its website it is concerned that this practice will become widespread across the UK when companies become legally obliged to pay the national living wage of £7.20 per hour from April 1.
But Icelandic Seachill has said it must manage its wage costs in a manner that keeps the company competitive while continuing to provide its workforce with an attractive and fair wage structure.
The union claims its fears are backed up by a report by recruitment giant Manpower, which warns that employers are preparing to cut overtime and rates paid for weekend working to claw back the extra cost of the new ‘national living wage’.
The Unite statement said: ‘Icelandic Seachill, which relies on large amounts of overtime from its 400 workforce at the chilled site, was engaged in an outrageous sleight of hand to recoup the money it will have to pay out for the 46 pence per hour increase required by the national living wage.’
Unite regional officer Dave Monaghan added: ‘Our members are extremely angry at this jiggery-pokery and call on the management to put an end to this bad idea regarding the overtime rates.
‘Without the enormous amount of overtime that our members put in this profitable company would not be able to generate tens of millions in sales a year.
‘Now the management is using this outrageous sleight of hand to reduce the living standards of our members who rely greatly on overtime to boost their already low wages.
‘Our members are signing a petition in protest, making it clear they will not accept the imposition of reduced overtime rates. The prospect of an industrial action ballot would be highly likely.’
The union gave an example of the current double time of £7.20 per hour (£14.40), which is set to be reduced to time and a quarter at £7.35 (£9.19), claiming that the company is saving £5.21 per hour at the workers’ expense.
The company said it had been reviewing pay structure in anticipation of the new national living wage, adding that it was starting a 45-day consultation on a proposal to change the terms and conditions of some of its employees.
The company was also planning investment and looking at costs in other areas.