Workers at C&C Group’s Shepton Mallet cider plant are threatening industrial action after a row over pay.

The union Unite is balloting 100 of its members that work at the Somerset plant, where Gaymers is produced.

Unite said production staff face a fourth consecutive year of pay freezes – while office workers have enjoyed a 3% pay rise.

It has given them until January 24 to decide whether to take industrial action.

Unite regional officer Hugh Kirkbride said: “This about fairness, and our members don’t see why they should be in the fourth year of a pay freeze when their colleagues in the offices and the labs have already had a 3% rise.”

The union claimed production workers were due a 3% pay rise for 2012-13, which they accepted, but were then left furious when told it was conditional on them accepting a pay freeze for 2013-14.

“When we got the offer of 3%, our members voted to accept. The company then came back and said it was conditional on our members agreeing to a pay freeze in the following year.

“We re-balloted and our members rejected the conditional offer. The company then took the 3% off the table and refused further talks.

“We have a situation where a highly profitable company is trying to tie a pay rise to a future pay freeze.

“This is not acceptable as our members are struggling to make ends meet as they wrestle with soaring household bills. Their pay is falling behind in real terms.”

Deb Kennedy, head of manufacturing  at C&C Group, moved to assure the trade that any action would pose no threat to the supplier’s brand.

She said: “Shepton Mallet Cider Mill has made significant investment in our cider mill to ensure a long term future for the facility and, in the process, securing jobs here in Somerset in one of our best loved traditional industries.  

“Regrettably, we have been unable to reach agreement with the Unite Union over pay, despite the company making an industry-beating offer to our workforce, covering both 2012 and 2013.

“The local Unite representative has misrepresented the facts in a number of key areas and we have asked the union for a meeting to discuss his involvement in the process. “We are aware that Unite’s members are now being balloted on industrial action and we sincerely hope that common sense will prevail and such unnecessary and potentially damaging action will be rejected.

“If industrial action does result, there is no immediate threat to supply of the Shepton Mallet cider brands. We will continue to update our customers and suppliers as the situation develops.”