Production at world’s biggest Nutella factory hit by workers’ protests

The world’s biggest Nutella factory has been brought to a near-standstill by workers protesting over pay and conditions.

Tensions have been mounting at the site in Normandy, northern France, with union activists barring trucks from entering or leaving the factory for a week.

The plant, in the village of Villers-Ecalles, normally makes 600,000 jars of the chocolate and hazelnut spread every day – a quarter of the world’s production of the product.

After six days of failed efforts to end the stand-off, Nutella owner Ferrero has started threatening fines for workers involved in the blockade.

The Workers’ Force union says 160 of the factory’s 350 workers are taking part in a walkout to demand 4.5% salary increases, one-time 900-euro bonuses and better working conditions.

“It’s war, anger is mounting,” union activist Fabien Lacabanne said.

He said the company has agreed to a 1.7% raise for the lowest paid workers, and one-time bonuses up to 400 euros.

However, unions say the offer is not enough given rising living costs and have complained of deteriorating factory conditions and increasing pressure to be more productive.

Italian-owned Ferrero said it is trying to protect workers who are not on strike, and wants to resume dialogue – but not until the workers stop blocking the factory.

The next negotiation meeting is scheduled for 13 June.

French workers frequently go on strike during salary negotiations, with the last one hitting the Villers-Ecalles factory in 2011.

There have also been previous protests over the use of palm oil in Nutella – with the oil’s mass production linked to deforestation, habitat loss, climate change and animal cruelty.

The latest protests have come amid anger among many low-income French workers at pro-business policies by President Emmanuel Macron seen as favouring the rich – and that prompted the yellow vest protest movement.

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