More trouble is ‘brewing’ for coffee giant JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) as fire and rehire strikes at its Banbury factory escalate from today (Wednesday 26 May).

Around 300 JDE employees are taking strike action over the company’s plans to dismiss staff and force them to sign new contracts that would see them lose up to £12,000 a year.

The workers have conducted a continuous overtime ban since 1 May, as well holding two 24 hour strikes and several demonstrations outside JDE’s Ruscote Avenue site in Banbury.

The severity of the industrial action has now increased, with a 72-hour strike that began at 6am this morning and the looming prospect of more damaging strikes over the summer.

Unite said that JDE ‘needs to wake up and the smell the coffee over the damage its reviled fire and rehire policy is causing’

Even before the current round of strikes began, Unite estimated that the loss of production resulting from the dispute amounted to 600 tonnes of coffee, the equivalent of 300 million cups and equating to a financial loss of around £18 million. 

Unite national officer for food, drink and agriculture, Joe Clarke, said: “Unite has put forward a number of proposals to JDE to deescalate this dispute, including a commitment to modernisation and negotiations over working practices. 

“Unfortunately, the company has not responded and is instead still fixated on dismissing and re-engaging our members on unbelievably inferior terms and conditions. 

"This is clearly fire and rehire - and a disgraceful way to treat a loyal workforce who have given their all to this business.

“JDE has already suffered huge losses due to the strikes and overtime ban and that is before this current longer round of industrial action is taken into account.  

“With the prospect of the strikes increasing in frequency and severity over the summer, more trouble is brewing for JDE. 

“It needs to wake up and the smell the coffee over the damage its reviled fire and rehire policy is causing.

“Our members are standing strong with the strength of their union behind them and will not be moved until these grossly unfair contract changes are dropped.”

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.

The union is running a national campaign to get the government to outlaw the practice, in line with other competitor countries, to give UK workers protection. A recent Survation poll for Unite found seven in 10 want the practice banned.

Unite assistant general secretary for politics and legal, Howard Beckett, said: “It's quite clear that the public is firmly on the side of working people when it comes to the horrific practice of fire and rehire.

"There is no grey area here. They see that this is an objectionable practice that should be banned. The government has to get on the same page as voters on this and fast."


During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

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