The threat of industrial action looms over United Biscuit’s (UB's) McVitie’s Cake Company factory at Halifax as trades union members rebel over job cuts, shift pattern changes and potential wage cuts.
Unite the union said workers were angry at planned alterations to shifts, which could see their annual pay packets slump by between up to £4,400 each. They were also incensed about the threat of 10 job losses at the West Yorkshire plant, which makes cakes and cake bars.
“The possibility of industrial action can’t be ruled out at this stage – and we would urge the management to continue to talk to Unite about the situation that it finds itself in,” said Unite regional officer Sarah Mitchell.
Unite claimed UB wanted to introduce the shift changes on May 1, prompted by contractual changes with major customer Mars UK, which come into force on April 1.
According to Unite, workers at the Halifax plant, presently earning about £24,500, have been told their current 24/7 shift patterns would be changed to a 24 hour shift system, Monday to Friday.
Pay packets slump
The union claimed the company had asked for them to make themselves available for work on 17 Saturdays a year, but that they would only be required for 11. This could see their pay packets slump by between £3,100 and £4,400, depending on overtime worked, Unite said.
“This is a complex dispute with the management’s stated aim being to secure future production volumes and cut costs which has been necessitated by the changes to the Mars contract,” said Mitchell.
“We have had lengthy talks with the company over the proposed changes which have now ended. However, our members can’t afford to take a £3,000 ‘hit’ to their pay packets when household bills are going through the roof.
“The company is pressing ahead with the voluntary redundancy programme and the changes in the shift patterns regardless, and Unite will be consulting its members in the coming week about the next steps in this dispute.”
‘Proposals to restructure’
Responding to Unite, UB said in a statement: “UB entered into a collective consultation with employees and union representatives in January, regarding proposals to restructure our production team at Halifax.”
The proposals were intended to help its Halifax site become more efficient and competitive and did not affect its other UK factories, UB said.
“During the consultation period, discussions have been held with employees and union representatives. The proposals envisage a maximum of eight roles will be redundant and approximately 30 roles in total would be affected by changes to shift patterns.
“Wherever possible we will look to minimise the impact of the proposed restructure for employees and there are 10 vacant roles in other parts of the business which have been identified as potential redeployment opportunities.”