About 1,200 workers at the 2 Sisters Food Group in the West Midlands are being balloted for industrial action in a dispute over pay and conditions, and a culture of alleged bullying.
Unite, the largest union in the country, started balloting its members at the Bevan Way and Dial Lane sites in Smethwick, West Bromwich and the Lincoln Street plant in Wolverhampton on Friday 23 November on whether they wish to take strike action or industrial action short of a strike. The ballot closes on Friday 7 December.
The privately-owned company was founded by the high profile businessman, Ranjit Singh and is growing strongly after taking over Northern Foods and a number of Premier Food factories.
The four main issues that have angered the workforce are:
- A derisory pay offer of 20p an hour, when the majority of the workers are earning just £6.22 an hour, a fraction above the national minimum wage of £6.19.
- Unacceptable shift patterns for the proposed seven day-a-week working, which would adversely hit the work-life balance of the workforce.
- Management reneging on its promise that any pay deal would be backdated to 1 August – the start of pay year.
- A culture of alleged beatings and bullying.
A further grievance for the workers at the two sites in Bevan Way, Smethwick is a plan to charge workers £8-a-week to park, which would eat up the current proposed weekly pay rise of £7.50. Parking is free at present.
Unite regional officer Des Quinn said: “The dispute centres on a hardline management that is keen to squeeze even further the incomes of workers whose pay is barely above the national minimum wage. The average pay is just above £12,000-a-year.
“There is also a very unpleasant culture at these plants, generated by a number of serious issues relating to alleged bullying and beatings.
“Unite is taking a proactive stance to protect the interests of the workforce which is 75 per cent Asian, with the remaining 25 per cent including a significant number of eastern European employees.”
The company supplies poultry, fish, chilled, bakery and frozen products to the retail, food service and food manufacturing sectors.
For further information please contact Des Quinn on 07785 102386 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.