GSK dodges UK strike with improved pay offer for staffers

GSK has averted an industrial kerfuffle in the United Kingdom.

A potential strike by more than 1,000 GSK engineers, technicians, laboratory analysts, warehouse workers and others has been called off after the employees—represented by Britain and Ireland’s biggest labor union Unite—accepted an improved pay offer from the British Big Pharma.

The staffers voted to strike last month after receiving a “derisory” pay raise offer of 2.75%, according to Unite. That sum was well below the U.K.’s rate of inflation, which clocked in at nine percent in late April, the labor union said at the time.

Now, following fresh negotiations, GSK has lifted its offer, Unite said Monday.

"We are pleased to have reached an agreement with our employees covered by collective bargaining agreements at UK manufacturing sites," a GSK spokesperson said over email. "We are committed to maintaining positive relationships with our skilled manufacturing workforce and the unions that represent them."

GSK said the updated offer consists of a 4.5% increase to base salary, which is backdated. Further, the deal includes a one-off special award to all GSK employees of one week's pay, which is worth about 2% of base salary. 

“Unite will be using this settlement as a stepping stone to ensure that in all future pay settlements GSK properly rewards its workforce,” Tony Devlin, Unite national officer, said in a statement in the union's release.

There are about 700 GSK staffers in Unite, the company’s spokesperson told Fierce Pharma last month. About 500 members voted in last month’s strike bid, with 430 in favor of taking action. GSK has about 175 members in fellow U.K. trade union GMB, who did not vote for strike action, the company noted.

Last month, GSK provided a slightly different take on the potential strike. The company said it had offered a 4% increase to base salary—not the 2.75% bump reported by Unite—plus a one-off award worth about 2% of base salary. The company had also floated an annual bonus for 2021 that “paid out above-target,” the spokesperson explained via email.

GSK employs around 13,000 people in the U.K., some 3,500 of whom work at manufacturing sites, the spokesperson added.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include a statement from GSK.