Grimsby-based Icelandic Seachill, the UK’s leading supplier of chilled fish, has been accused of paying for the new ‘national living wage’ by slashing overtime rates.
Unite, the country’s largest union, is concerned that this practice will become widespread across the UK when companies become legally obliged to pay the national living wage of £7.20 per hour from 1 April.
Unite’s fears are backed up by a report by recruitment giant, Manpower which warns that employers are preparing to cut overtime and rates paid for weekend working to claw back the extra cost of the new ‘national living wage’.
Unite said that Icelandic Seachill, which relies on large amounts of overtime from its 400 workforce at the chilled site, was engaged in ‘an outrageous sleight of hand’ to recoup the money it will have to pay out for the 46 pence per hour increase required by the ‘national living wage’.
Unite regional officer Dave Monaghan said: “Our members are extremely angry at this jiggery-pokery and call on the management to put an end to this bad idea regarding the overtime rates.
“Without the enormous amount of overtime that our members put in this profitable company would not be able to generate tens of millions in sales a year.
“Now the management is using this outrageous sleight of hand to reduce the living standards of our members who rely greatly on overtime to boost their already low wages.
“Our members are signing a petition in protest making it clear they will not accept the imposition of reduced overtime rates. The prospect of an industrial action ballot would be highly likely.”
The bosses at the Laforey Road plant intend to pay the 400 process operators £7.35 per hour. The normal week is 40 hours, but the workers are required to work every other weekend on overtime. Therefore, a week can easily average between 50 and 60 hours i.e. 10-20 hours of overtime.
However, the company intends to slash overtime rates. For example, the current double time of £7.20 per hour (£14.40) is set to be reduced to time and a quarter at £7.35 (£9.19), meaning that the company is saving £5.21 per hour at the workers’ expense.
Dave Monaghan added: “When chancellor George Osborne introduced the so-called ‘national living wage’, which we believe is not enough anyway, its aim was to raise the income of the lower paid, it wasn’t meant to be dodged by unscrupulous companies to boost their profits.
“We suspect that this is a ruse that other businesses in the UK will use to get around this legislation – Unite will be on high alert to stamp on this, if it comes to our attention.”
The ‘national living wage’, which is obligatory, should not to be confused with the higher rates recommended by the Living Wage Foundation of £8.25 per hour (£9.40 in London) – however, the ‘living wage’ is voluntary and up to employers whether they pay it.
According to its website, Icelandic Seachill is a leading supplier of chilled fish and supplier of prawn cocktails, party foods and fishcakes to the UK retail market. It also owns The Saucy Fish Co. brand.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email: email@example.com
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.