GSK employees move to strike

April 21, 2022

In an unprecedented move, GlaxoSmithKline employees at six sites in the United Kingdom have voted to strike, following a dispute with the pharma giant over pay increases.

Unite the union, a British labor union representing GSK workers, announced the vote on March 18. Unite has announced that 86% of its union members at GSK voted yes to the strike, which will move forward on April 22 if GSK does not respond with a “much-improved” offer.

The pharma titan has been at odds with workers over a proposed pay increase. The company originally offered a pay increase of 2.75% and threw in an offer for a possible 4% increase, which Unite rejected saying it came with “considerable strings attached.”

“We have offered a 4% increase to base salary, in addition to a one-off award — equivalent to around 2% of base salary — as well as an annual bonus for 2021, which paid out above-target,” GSK said in a Reuters article.

Union members are asking for a pay raise as inflation in the UK soars above 7%. The 2.75% increase offered by GSK is below inflation rates and would still be a pay cut for employees, Unite said.

Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham objected to GSK’s massive profit intake in 2021.

“GSK pocketed more than £34 billion [$44B] in profits last year yet expects its workforce to swallow a pay cut in the midst of a cost of living crisis,” said Graham. "As the strength of our members’ vote shows, this is simply not acceptable – I’m backing Unite members and their demand that GSK thinks again.”

In addition, the company’s CEO, Emma Walmsley, took home an additional £8.2 million ($10.7 million) in 2021, thanks to a 17% increase in pay.

Unite members were balloted across the UK at the Montrose and Irvine sites in Scotland; Ware in Hertfordshire; the Worthing site in West Sussex; Barnard Castle in Durham; and Ulverston in Cumbria.