Bosses at JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) in Banbury, Oxfordshire are accused of carrying out covert surveillance of workers and their families protesting at the company’s ‘fire and rehire plans’ in breach of data protection legislation.

Unite the union has called for the company to carry out a full investigation after it was claimed that managers filmed and photographed workers, their partners and children at the third weekend demo on Saturday (15 May) outside the Ruscote Avenue plant. The union is also requesting the films and photographs to be handed over.

Unite said today (Tuesday 18 May) it feared individuals were being identified for future ‘blacklisting’ and that GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation to protect privacy) was breached, especially when families with children were in attendance who were not members of the workforce.

The union dismissed claims from JDE that the filming was in response to alleged intimidatory behaviour by protesters as ‘spurious and totally unfounded’.

The dispute, which has already seen two 24 hour strikes, follows the decision by the Dutch-owned company to issue notice of dismissal and engagement for 291 employees. It is expected that those, who have not signed the new contracts with inferior pay and conditions, will be issued with 12 weeks’ notice of redundancy this week.

A 72 hour strike is scheduled to start at 06.00 on Wednesday 26 May and running until 07.00 on Saturday 29 May.

Unite national officer for the food industry Joe Clarke said: “On Saturday (15 May) Unite held a second 24 hour strike over JDE’s ‘fire and rehire’ plans, and our members on picket duty were filmed and photographed by the management. 

“The filming also happened at the demonstration at 10.30 attended by employees, their partners and children, as well as members of the public not employed by JDE. 

“This is in clear and flagrant breach of data protection legislation, and claims by the bosses that there was intimidatory behaviour at this entirely peaceful protest, in line with Covid-19 protocols, are spurious and totally unfounded. We suspect that the filming and photographing was for future ‘blacklisting’ of current employees. 

“We are calling for the company to carry out a full investigation and to hand over the films and photographs. We will pursuing all legal avenues to obtain redress of yet another example of this management’s hardline attitudes to our members. The filming of children is particularly repugnant. 

“We will continue to strongly support our members in what is already an extremely anxious and distressing time for them as they face these immoral unethical ‘fire and rehire’ plans. 

“Some of our members could lose between £7,000 - £12,000-a-year under these new contracts which may mean some of them losing their homes.”

Unite has repeatedly raised the alarm over an outbreak of ‘fire and rehire’ disputes across the UK as unscrupulous employers look to exploit workers using Covid-19 as an excuse.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Fire and rehire' is ripping through our workplaces like a disease. Weak law lets bad bosses force through brutal changes to contracts, sometimes taking thousands of pounds off wages that families need to get by.

"It's a disgraceful practice that's outlawed in much of Europe and should be here.

"Unite is fighting for UK workers to be treated with the same decency.  We won't stop until the law is changed to protect working people from attack."

ENDS 

Notes to editors: 

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

Please note the numbers above are for journalists’ enquiries only.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org 

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