Picket lines out at Sun Chemical

Hannah Jordan
Thursday, June 16, 2022

Union members across Sun Chemical’s major UK ink plants are taking part in a second day of strikes.

Around 200 Unite the Union members are picketing today
Around 200 Unite the Union members are picketing today

Around 200 Unite the Union members are picketing in the sweltering heat across England today (Thursday 16 June) outside Sun Chemical’s four main plants: Midsomer Norton, South Normanton, Milnrow in Rochdale and Workington.

The action is in response to what Unite termed an “insulting” 3% pay offer.

An overtime ban began on 6 June at seven Sun Chemical sites: Bristol, Midsomer Norton, Workington, Alfreton, Heywood, Milnrow and Urmston.

The first 24-hour strike took place last week on Thursday 9 June.

Speaking to Printweek, Unite national officer Louisa Bull said: “We have just served notice of further strike action at the end of this month and there are discussions about the possibility of strikes for two days a week through July.

“We will have a meeting of senior reps tomorrow after which we will be able to say more. We have not managed to get around the table with the employer yet and we have no date to do so but we are really hopeful that we can get around the table soon.”

The union has warned that the strike action could impact a number of large customers due to just-in-time supply chains.

Aside from Amcor Packaging, which houses the Workington inplant facility, the Daily Mail sources its news inks from Sun Chemical’s Milnrow plant, while Midsomer Norton customers include Schweizer and Multi-Color Corp.

Sun Chemical is the world’s largest inkmaker and is owned by ¥855.4bn (£5.4bn) turnover Japanese chemicals giant DIC Corporation. Last year the organisation made an operating profit of ¥42.89bn. Sharp rises in raw materials costs saw operating margins at its Packaging & Graphic division, which includes packaging, inkjet and publication inks, slip from 5.6% to 4.9% during the period.

In the UK, Sun Chemical Ltd’s most recent results for 2020 showed sales down 7.6% at just under £155m and the unit made an operating loss of £3.7m, albeit an improvement on the prior year’s £5.3m loss. Net assets increased from £13m to £22.3m due to actuarial gains on the pension asset of £12.9m.

The next confirmed date for strike action is Thursday 30 June.

Sun Chemical was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

Update: In a statement later sent to Printweek on Friday 17 June, a Sun Chemical spokesperson said: “The local Sun Chemical management team is working hard to resolve this issue and discussions with staff and with the Unite union are ongoing.”

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