Nearly 50 workers at Suffolk animal feed firm, A B Agriculture Ltd will be voting for strike action, amid allegations of bullying, in a dispute which has seen ‘a concerted attack’ on their terms and conditions.
Unite, the country’s largest union, will be balloting its members at the Bury St Edmunds firm from Monday (11 July) for strike action and/or industrial action short of a strike over the unilateral imposition of a ‘draconian’ workplace agreement. The ballot closes on Friday 22 July.
Unite said that its members, who work in animal feed production and transport, face increases in working time, cuts to their annual holidays and the withdrawal of incentive payments. The drivers are being told that they must increase their working day from 12 to 15 hours and the mill staff are having two days docked from their annual leave entitlement.
Unite regional officer Steve Harley said: “What we are seeing here is a concerted attack by the management of a very profitable international company on the pay, and terms and conditions of our members.
“This has been coupled with very unpleasant attempts by the bosses to bully and cajole our members to sign up to this new draconian agreement which would be very detrimental to them and their families in terms of lost income and work/life balance.
“Staff have been threatened with losing their jobs, putting their homes at risk, if they vote to take industrial action.
“We have raised these allegations with management and the human resources department - and yet not a single case has been investigated. Industrial action is always a last resort and is only taken when workers have been pushed against the wall by intransigent bosses.
“The management has sought to erode terms and conditions that have evolved over many years. It has done so without allowing the recognised trade union, Unite or the employees any chance to challenge this process.
“Unite’s door for talks is always open, as long the management intends to negotiate in good faith. And it should not be forgotten that the Bury St Edmunds operation is financially very healthy.”
The company supplies animal feed to companies, such as Banham Poultry, Bernard Matthews and Gressingham Foods.
According to its website, AB Agri is the agricultural division of ABF, a diversified, international food, ingredients and retail group with sales of £13.3bn and over 113,000 employees in 47 countries.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
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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.