Unite the union predicted that supplies of cut chicken to major supermarkets would be disrupted in the run-up to Christmas, as about 1,200 workers took industrial action.
But the 2 Sisters’ spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk supply would be “completely unaffected” because the firm would be able to meet demand from other sites.
“These sites [where workers are striking] represent less than 5% of our group turnover. We will remain open for business and encourage our employees to come to work as normal, with around 50% of employees at these sites not being members of Unite.”
‘Very close to a resolution’
The spokesman added that the company and union were very close to a resolution and that good progress had been made over recent days to agree a fair deal on pay and conditions.
Both parties wanted to avert strike action, he believed. “While we are disappointed by strike action, we will keep discussions open with Unite.”
Unite regional officer Des Quinn agreed that talks had made good progress on some issues. But the two parties remained deadlocked on pay and seven-day day working. “Further discussions are welcomed by Unite, however since a settlement is not within view, the dispute will carry on,” said Quinn.
“Unite is ready at any time to resume talks with the company, but management has to put a realistic offer on the table.”
The 2 Sisters spokesman said the move to a five in seven-day working pattern was essential to meet demand, after the manufacturer won additional business with customers.
“We believe this is a positive signal – demand for our products will help to sustain jobs at these sites and we also have plans to create 500 additional jobs in the West Midlands, but only if we can move to a five in seven-day working operation,” he said.
Today’s strikes will affect the firm’s plants at Smethwick and Wolverhampton.
Further 24-hour strikes are planned for Tuesday, December 18 and Friday, December 21.
From today there will also be a continuous overtime ban, non-cooperation and work-to-rule.
2 Sisters supplies poultry, fish, chilled, bakery and frozen products to the food manufacturing, retail and foodservice sectors.
Meanwhile, West Midlands police is investigating an alleged assault on a 2 Sisters worker who was leaving one of the food group’s sites after finishing a shift, claims the union.