UNION officials at a North-East factory said strike action was now almost inevitable after last-chance talks with management broke down acrimoniously.

Workers at the plant of British Polythene Industries (BPI), also known as Visqueen, at Yarm Road, Stockton, will vote on industrial action in the next few weeks, with strikes likely to follow in November, unions claim.

A final round of peace talks took place earlier this week but failed to resolve the long-running pay dispute involving 200 factory floor workers at the site.

Workers are seeking a three per cent pay increase, but BPI bosses have refused to budge on a previous 2.8 per cent offer.

They have now imposed a back-dated 2.5 per cent rise on workers.

Managing director Steve Moss said BPI was unable to meet staff demands and called the pay award fair and reasonable. However, Joe Keith, of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said: "I'm convinced the union has acted in good faith throughout negotiations. We called the meeting with management this week but our efforts have been met with intransigence.

"This week's meeting really was the last chance but nothing was forthcoming. We are now looking to ballot workers at the earliest opportunity."