Unite the union says the main issues that have angered the workforce are a pay offer of 20p an hour on their rate of £6.22 an hour, unacceptable shift patterns for the proposed seven-day week working, the management “reneging” on its promise that any pay deal would be backdated to August 1, and a culture of alleged bullying.
Unite regional officer, Des Quinn said: “The dispute centres on a hardline management that is keen to squeeze even further the incomes of workers whose pay is barely above the national minimum wage. The average pay is just above £12,000-a-year.
A spokesman for 2 Sisters Food Group said: “We are very disappointed with the reaction of Unite, as we have only had very initial discussions on how we can work together to remain competitive in a tough economic climate. The food industry remains challenging, as evidenced by recent events elsewhere in the industry. We will continue to consult on our proposals with unions and employee representatives, working together to ensure our sites can remain competitive for the future.”
Quinn said: “There is also a very unpleasant culture at these plants, generated by a number of serious issues relating to alleged bullying.
“Unite is taking a proactive stance to protect the interests of the workforce, which is 75% Asian, with the remaining 25% including a significant number of Eastern European employees.”
2 Sisters responded to the bullying allegations with the following statement: “We have not been made aware of any specific evidence of this by Unite, this is the first we have heard via their press release and we will be pressing them to provide evidence.
“Nevertheless, we take any comment of this nature extremely seriously and we have proper channels for such allegations, including an employee whistleblowing helpline, and would encourage Unite members and employees to use these if they have any evidence of this.”
2 Sisters supplies poultry, fish, chilled, bakery and frozen products to the retail, food service and food manufacturing sectors.
The ballot is taking place at the company’s sites in Bevan Way and Dial lane in Smethwick, West Bromwich and its Lincoln Street plant in Wolverhampton.