Weetabix accused of milking profits as workers face fire and rehire at Northampton plants
- Monday 24 May 2021
Consumers could face shortages of Weetabix this summer, if workers at the company’s Northamptonshire factories take strike action, in a dispute over plans to fire and rehire them on vastly inferior contracts resulting in their pay being slashed.
The dispute involves engineers who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, at the company’s factories in Kettering and Corby.
Weetabix has issued the engineers with new contracts and work patterns, which will result in major cuts in shift allowances. There will also be a move to require more day working than shift working, further contributing to the cut in pay.
Some of the affected engineers will lose up to £5,000 a year. There are also major concerns about health and safety of the workers at both plants due to the low number of engineers who will now be on duty at certain times.
The ballot for strike action opens on Thursday 27 May and closes on Thursday 3 June. If workers vote for strike action then stoppages will begin later next month.
Unite regional officer Sean Kettle said: “Unite will not sit idly by and allow our members to be fired and rehired.
“Our members play an essential role in keeping the Weetabix plants operating and to treat them in such an offhand manner in order to simply boost profits is disgraceful.
“If a strike occurs it will undoubtedly disrupt the production of Weetabix and result in shortages in the shops.
"The solution is in Weetabix’s hands. They need to withdraw the threat to fire and rehire our members and return to the negotiating table.”
Unite regional secretary for the East Midlands Paresh Patel said: “Unite’s members have continued to work throughout the pandemic, risking their own health and that of their families, in order to ensure customers continue to receive their Weetabix.
“Any decent company would be paying their workers a bonus in recognition of their commitment and sacrifice, rather than attempt to slash their wages.”
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 ten 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 the voters on this - and fast."
Notes to editors:
For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.
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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.