Cake-maker's staggering greed forces workers to call strike action
24 January 2013
Shoddy treatment by Greencore, one of the biggest and wealthiest food manufacturers in the UK, is forcing low paid workers to down tools for 24 hours next week, said Unite, the UK’s biggest union.
The industrial action - beginning at 05.00 hours on Wednesday 30 January and ending at 04:59 hours on 31 January - is the first ever at the Hull site and will hit production of favourite cake products including the novelty and celebration cakes carried in supermarkets such as Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury's.
Around 500 workers have been fighting to claw back pay after attacks on their terms and conditions have seen them lose up to £40 per week from their already very low wages at a time when they are struggling to keep pace with rising living costs - but the boardroom is seeking to shower itself in rewards.
The workers recently voted by 81 per cent to take action, angered by the company's breach of promise to restore cuts in terms made in October 2011. Last year, Greencore was forced by a tribunal to reverse the £1.2 million raid on the workers' wages - however in a scandalous effort to dodge the court's ruling, the company simply issued new contracts to the workforce.
Unite national officer for the food industry, Jennie Formby, said: "The brass neck of this company and its CEO Patrick Coveney is staggering. In the week when Mr Coveney seeks a €1.7 million salary package, his poorly paid workforce is on the brink of strike action for the first time ever in an effort to stop this employer robbing wage packets to reward Greencore's boardroom.
"When brought into line by the law, Greencore simply ignores it. Imagine if this workforce had a similar disregard for the laws of this land? They would face jail, not the praise of analysts revelling in the £70 million in profits alone this company generated last year.
"Make no mistake, this company is being powered to super profits by the hard graft of our members - not content with this, it is out to snatch their wages too. It is entirely shameful behaviour.
"Once again we appeal to the big retailers like Asda to get a grip on their supply chain. It is immoral for your tills to be stuffed when you know full well that this is money from workers kept on low wages by your contractors. You have a responsibility to get the workers of Britain off poverty wages and to ensure that the contractors you use uphold the laws of this land."
Unite regional officer Malcolm Hancock added: "This workforce has never taken a day's strike action but feel they have no other option when faced with a super-rich company who believes itself to be above the law. How else can it make them listen?
"We urge the management now to take heed. They have brought this workforce to the point of despair. They have breached the ETI base code relating to living wages in the food sector and have forced the workers to take their employer to court over what is rightfully theirs.
"But this poorly paid, shabbily-treated workforce are brave and they will not be cowed. They are determined to stand up for decent treatment from these modern-day mill owners and Unite will support them every step of the way."
Greencore, whose revenue rocketed by nearly 45 percent in 2012, is seeking to impose changes to terms and conditions and remove shift premia, overtime pay and, bank holiday payments.
For further information, please contact Unite press office on 020 3371 2065