Workers at a Darlington-based packaging firm have announced they will be ramping up their strike action following redundancies.

Unite has confirmed it has warned Cepac that it will face legal action if it follows through on "redundancy threats" at its Darlington plant due to ongoing strike action.

Workers began eight weeks of strike action on August 14 in a dispute over pay The union says this is because the company failed to enter into "meaningful negotiations".

The union added that the company announced it is considering making 61 redundancies as a result of a downturn of work due to the industrial action.

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Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The actions of Cepac are despicable, they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

"If they think their underhand and potentially illegal actions will force Unite to take a step back in the fight for fair pay for Cepac workers, then they have entirely miscalculated the union’s laser like focus on always fighting for the jobs, pay and conditions of its members.”

The union said it will support workers with unfair dismissal claims if these redundancies take place,

It has further warned that if the company attempts to pay redundancy at a lower rate than previously, this will result in a further legal challenge.

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Steve Moss, Cepac Group managing director said: “It is disappointing that Unite has announced a further two week extension to strike action at our Darlington site.

"This is likely to exacerbate the loss of customers and downturn in business experienced due to the current lack of capacity, including the total loss of all print capacity over the past weeks, as a consequence of the strike action. 

“We have done and continue to do our best to keep our customers supplied, but it is entirely understandable that they will seek supplies elsewhere when Darlington cannot supply.

"Against this background it continues to be disappointing that Unite continues to fail to engage with the key issue that orders are drastically reducing as a consequence of the strike action.

"The threat of legal action contained within Unite’s press release will do nothing to restore orders and create work to keep people employed when work is simply not there in the future”.

Unite said the strikes are a result of Cepac only being prepared to offer an eight per cent "strings attached" pay increase.

They added this was below the true inflation rate (RPI), which sits at nine per cent, and called the offer a "significant pay cut".

Unite regional officer Pat McCourt said: “The ongoing industrial action is creating major problems for Cepac’s customers which will only become more severe the longer the strike action continues but this is entirely of the company’s own making.

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“Unite has been fully prepared to enter into negotiations to resolve the dispute but Cepac would rather threaten workers’ jobs, rather than come to a fair agreement.”

Cepac produces corrugated packaging. Its clients include: HBCP (whose customers include Greggs, Costa, Subway and Pret A Manger) along with C&D Foods Group (whose customers include Aldi, Tesco, Morrisons and Asda).

Other Cepac customers include Mars, Carlsberg, Innocent Drinks, Pernod, Lidl, Sainsbury’s and Diageo.