At a meeting last week (July 17) Councillor Lee Sherriff submitted the motion for: “2 Sisters Food Group and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) to negotiate in good faith to achieve a mutually agreed and reasonable settlement of their current dispute.”
2 Sisters, which is the empire of Ranjit Boparan, wants 800 permanent staff at the ready-meals factory to accept reduced rates of pay for overtime and bank holiday working, plus reduced rights to sick-pay and redundancy.
A spokeswoman for 2 Sisters Food Group told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We’re currently working through the consultation process in good faith. We remain hopeful that a workable outcome can be achieved to help the Carlisle site remain competitive and viable into the future.”
The row over working conditions has escalated since the 2 Sisters Food Group bought the Carlisle ready-meals manufacturers in April 2011.
In a bid to avoid industrial action, staff offered their parent company a compromise package on July 5. In this, workers offered to reduce their double-time pay for working on Sundays to time and a half, and cut overtime for all hours worked above eight hours in a day during the week from time and a half to time and a quarter.
Staff will meet with management on July 26 in a bid to reach agreement on this.
Councillor Sherriff proposed the motion in recognition of “the significant contribution that Cavaghan & Gray and its workers have made to the Carlisle economy over many years”.
But the Harraby Labour councillor also claimed that workers were prepared to negotiate but that 2 Sisters had filed papers giving notice of possible redundancies. She also told local press that 2 Sisters was threatening to impose new contracts.
A spokeswoman for 2 Sisters Food Group told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “There are no planned redundancies [at the Carlisle site] at this time.”
Several readers have contacted FoodManufacture.co.uk with reports of similar changes to workers’ terms and conditions at other 2 Sisters sites, such as Fox’s Biscuits in West Batley, Yorkshire and the 2 Sisters’ chicken plant in Scunthorpe.
Further job losses have also been announced at 2 Sisters’ pie and pizza manufacturing site RF Brookes in South Wiston, Leicestershire. Last month hundreds of RF Brookes’ staff went on strike in protest against proposed changes to redundancy packages.
Usdaw’s media officer, Gary Arthurs, told FoodManufacture.co.uk he believed that 2 Sisters were implementing the changes across the group: “I know they’re doing similar things at their other plants in Scunthorpe and Norfolk. They also made similar changes at Holland’s Pies last year.”
A spokeswoman for 2 Sisters Food Group told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “There are consultation processes going ahead at other sites.”
Earlier this month, Usdaw area organiser Jayne Shotton told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “They [2 Sisters] are trying to take their staff back to statutory and basic rights.”