Hundreds of food factory workers in West Bromwich and Smethwick were today striking in the first of three walkouts over pay and conditions.
Around 1,200 staff at the 2 Sisters Food Group, which also has a site in Wolverhampton, downed tools in protest over a new pay deal.
Members of the Unite union walked out at the Bevan Way site, in Smethwick, Dial Lane base, in West Bromwich, and the Lincoln Street plant, in Wolverhampton, at 6am.
Further strikes are planned on December 18 and 21.
Crowds starting forming outside the sites from 5am with workers braving the cold and misty conditions for a display of unity.
Sulinder Singh, regional organiser for Unite, was at the Smethwick site today. He said: “This action is unprecedented. It is the first time in 15 years this has taken place with workers coming together for a show of unity. This is about changing the entire culture around the business.”
The strike is against a pay rise offer of 20p an hour and seven day shift patterns Most workers currently earn £6.22 an hour. The national minimum wage is £6.19.
Sukhbir Singh, aged 60, of Halesowen, who has worked at the company for more than 10 years, said: “We are looking for fairer pay and better conditions for the work we do.”
Police were called to the West Bromwich site, but the protest was peaceful.
The firm, which supplies poultry and fish, has said it is “very disappointed” that Unite has voted to reject its above-inflation pay offer.