Hundreds of essential workers at the poultry division of Noble Foods Ltd in Lincolnshire have won their battle to be represented by Britain's leading union Unite.

In March of this year, a health and safety issue at the Gainsborough site became a catalyst for the workers to get organised and win trade union recognition. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, factory equipment was blowing cold air along a line of production workers, which staff feared had the potential to spread the virus. As soon as the issue was raised and the union intervened, the management quickly resolved the problem and fortunately there were no infections.

From that point, with the support of Unite's organising department and the union's lead negotiators, the workers began campaigning and built a union with hundreds of workers joining up. Despite the workers' clear support for a union, management were reluctant to voluntarily reach an agreement for trade union recognition. Unite was forced to use statutory employment legislation to gain recognition and the Government's Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) has ruled that the workers have a right to be represented by Unite. Noble Foods Ltd now has until 2 December to reach an agreement or the CAC will impose terms on the employer.

Unite regional officer Steve Syson said: "The safety of essential workers is paramount during these difficult times. The workforce saw just how quickly and effectively Unite resolved their safety concerns about Covid-19 at the factory. Once the workers and the union demanded action the management quickly fixed the equipment. This spurred hundreds of workers to join Unite the union.

"With the support of Unite's Organising team and the activists onsite the workforce has been awarded trade union recognition and the union has opened discussions with management in the spirit of constructive dialogue. If an agreement cannot be reached by 2 December the government's Central Arbitration Committee will impose terms on the employer. Hopefully that won't be the case, but whatever the outcome, Unite will represent its members for collective bargaining at this site going forward."

Unite East Midlands regional secretary Paresh Patel said: "The excellent team effort from the regional officer and the organisers alongside the workforce shows the importance and relevance of Unite during the current pandemic, ensuring that workers’ safety, welfare and job protection are at the heart of our fight for our members."

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    Unite is a union that campaigns for and delivers better pay and conditions for its members. Unite is winning at work based on three core values. Secure Work: fighting for jobs and job security, Strong Voice: a union which is a respected voice at work and Decent Pay: a union focused on pay and conditions.

For more information contact Ciaran Naidoo 07768 931 315

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.