(Reuters) – Kellogg Co said on Tuesday a majority of its U.S. cereal plant workers have voted against a new five-year contract, forcing it to hire permanent replacements as employees extend a strike that started more than two months ago.
Temporary replacements have already been working at its cereal plants in Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Tennessee where 1,400 union members went on strike on Oct. 5 as their contracts expired and talks over payment and benefits stalled.
“While certainly not the result we had hoped for, we must take the necessary steps to ensure business continuity,” Kellogg said in a statement.
The company said “unrealistic expectations” created by the union meant none of its six offers, including the last one that proposed wage increases and allowed all transitional employees with four or more years of service to move to legacy positions, came to fruition.
Union members have said the proposed two-tier system, in which transitional employees get lesser pay and benefits compared to longer tenured workers would take power away from union by removing the cap on how many lower tier employees it could have.
“They have made a ‘clear path’ – but while it is clear – it is too long and not fair to many,” Jeffrey Jens, a union member, said.
Several politicians including Democratic senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have voiced their support for the union, while many customers have said they are boycotting Kellogg’s products.
Kellogg is one of the several major U.S. firms that has faced worker strikes in the recent past as the labor market tightens. The company has also warned of a hit to profit from the strike, but was yet to quantify it.
Last month, farm equipment maker Deere & Co reached an agreement with striking workers.
(Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)