Heineken has hit back after plans of "sack and sign" contact cuts at its Hereford cider factory were made public.

Union Unite revealed the global drinks giant wanted to hire and re-hire staff, which would mean they would lose pay and benefits.

But now Heineken, which owns the Bulmers and Strongbow brands, said it's trying to "address differences in employment terms".

A spokesperson for the firm said it would listen to workers' concerns before looking to serve notice on staff's current contracts.

“To address differences in employment terms at our Hereford site, we have been in extensive negotiations with Unite the Union for over a year regarding proposals to align with the modern pay structure and practices which we operate across the wider business," they said.

“During this dialogue, the company has revised its proposals and developed a comprehensive set of packages to support the transition of colleagues onto new contracts, enabling them to have a choice of options depending on their individual circumstances.

“We are obviously disappointed not to have been able to secure an agreement and that a ballot has been rejected locally. We had hoped the mitigations would ensure a fair resolution, agreeable to all.

“After exhausting the collective bargaining process, including arbitration through ACAS, we are now discussing the company’s offer with colleagues so they can make a decision on an individual basis. We had been transparent about the fact that this would be the next step, which is in line with the terms of our Collective Agreement.

“We are hoping that colleagues will accept the changes which for many will be beneficial. We recognise that some colleagues may find the changes difficult and we will of course listen to their concerns before starting a consultation process on a proposal to serve notice on their current terms and offer them the new package.

“We value our relationship with Unite and are therefore disappointed at their call for industrial action. However, it is our firm belief that for the long-term success of the business, we need a consistent pay structure in Hereford that is fit for the future and is fair to all colleagues.”

On Thursday evening Unite national officer Joe Clarke said the so-called "sack and sign" plans had shocked the workforce and there were balloting for strike action.

“Many staff stand to lose a massive amount of their wage packets and fear that they will be unable to pay the bills if these plans go through," he said.

“Staff are preparing to battle these changes with everything they’ve got. What else are they supposed to do when faced with losing their financial security after years of dedicated service?

“Unite and Heineken have had a good relationship for many years, but the company should be in no doubt that the union will do everything in its power to stop these attacks on our members’ contracts.