REFRESCO Gerber staff were out on strike again today in protest at "vicious" job cuts and contract changes the company is making as a result of a recent merger.

Employees at fruit juice giant Refresco Gerber downed tools in the latest of a series of 36-hour stoppages.

In total 11 strikes will take place, following what the Unite union says is a refusal by the company to fully negotiate new pay rates.

According to Unite, the current pay structure will mean new staff will earn about £5,000 less than long-term employees.

Bridgwater Mercury:

Bridgwater Trade Union Council member Dave Chapple said: "Members are facing up to a vicious multi-national employer that, since its take over of Gerber, has looked to maximise profit at the expense of staff and their goodwill.

"Some workers are losing £8,000 a year.

"Gerber used to be an employer that became one of the UK's largest soft drinks manufacturing plants, with good industrial relations and no disputes - a firm that gave workers satisfaction and security.

"Gerber has a presence in the town, first as Quantock Preserving, then as part of Robertson's Jam, that goes back at its old site at Wembdon Rd nearly 100 years is therefore an iconic part of the town's industrial past as well as present.

"Manufacturing is almost a thing of the past, in Bridgwater as elsewhere in this country, and the current Refresco-Gerber dispute is the most important one taking place anywhere in the UK right now."