Greencore has denied "attacking workers’ rights” in a row with the union Unite, which has filed a complaint with the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).
The dispute concerns pay and conditions at the chilled food manufacturer's Hull factory. The union claimed the company had "impoverished its workers by abolishing overtime, shift and bank holiday premia for all workers, the majority of whom are on the national minimum wage”.
Unite warned Greencore would "face the full force of the union”, if it did not end the alleged attacks. The union further claimed Greencore was threatening to make 236 people redundant and replace them with agency workers, which breached employment law.
Greencore was also accused of breaching the ETI code – to which it is a signatory – on freedom of association, working hours, the provision of regular employment and intimidation of the workforce.
Jennie Formby, Unite national officer, said: "We're not prepared to sit back and allow blatant breaches of the Ethical Trading Initiative code which is there to protect workers from exploitation.
“Unite is now making a formal complaint to the ETI Board. Unless this supplier to Asda, Sainsbury, Waitrose and Tesco ends its attacks on workers rights, it will feel the full weight of Unite, a union determined to fight back for the workers.”
Formby added: "It would be better for the company to sit down with Unite and resolve the outstanding issues through constructive talks rather than face the full force of a major campaign against it.”
But a spokesman for Greencore told FoodManufacture.co.uk the firm "completely disagreed" with Unite's claims. "Only 20% of our workforce is on the minimum wage – not the majority.”
He denied that the firm had threatened to make 236 people redundant – but acknowledged the option had been discussed.
The spokesman also denied the union's claims that Greencore had breached the ETI code on freedom of association, working hours, provision of regular employment or intimidation of the workforce.
"We are still in negotiation with Unite about pay premia and we hope to find a negotiated solution,” he concluded.
Greencore’s Hull factory supplies cakes and desserts to supermarkets. The firm’s customers include Asda, Sainsbury and Waitrose.
The ETI code is based on the conventions of the International Labour Organization and is an internationally recognised code of labour practice.
Meanwhile, the Greencore spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the firm planned no more US acquisitions in the short term. “We have got a lot on our plate,” he said.
Last month, Greencore bought US sandwich and sushi manufacturer HC Schau & Son. In April it acquired the US food-to-go business Marketfare.
For more about its acquisitions of Schau, click here .
To read more about its Marketfare purchase, click here .