The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) originally balloted staff in June over strike action, due to contractual changes proposed by the firm, with 108 in favour and seven opposed. But the union cancelled a first two-day strike, scheduled for August 11-12, at the eleventh hour.
According to the BFAWU, management at Maple Leaf Bakery UK contested the validity of the vote because results were submitted via email, rather than on hard copy.
However, a reballot held yesterday produced a majority decision in favour of action, a BFAWU spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk, adding that since the union has now served the company seven-day notice of action, employees are planning to strike for two days a week over a 12-week period from next Thursday (September 9).
Company offer rejected
Despite the deadlock, the BFAWU spokesman admitted that the company had made efforts to resolve the dispute: “There was an offer on the table from the company last week, but it simply wasn’t good enough for our members,” he said.
Maple Leaf Bakery UK originally concluded a statutory 90-day consultation period in mid-August, during which it advised over 200 staff at the factory of contractual changes: including reduced pay, cuts to overtime bonuses and holiday.
At the time, the BFAWU spokesman said: “Staff are looking at general changes to terms and conditions. The company are prepared to up basic pay rates to £6.88 an hour, but are trying to remove overtime rates for weekend work, as well as shift premiums.”
The spokesman also claimed that Maple Leaf had been unfair to those employees who attempted to accept changes to contractual terms with attached letters of protest: “It is my understanding that basic contract law entitles employees to include such a letter,” he said.
Maple Leaf Bakery UK HR director Bob Archer told FoodManufacture.co.uk “We are disappointed that our employees are proposing to take industrial action despite a recommendation from their trade union representatives to accept an improved offer from the company.
"There is a further meeting between the company and the trade union on Monday when both sides will continue their efforts to find a resolution to the dispute."
At an earlier stage in the dispute Archer said that it was set against a "bleak economic background...and severely increased raw material costs.
“All these issues are challenging at a time when our customers are continuing to place demands upon the business at Walsall to produce a product at a market competitive price,” he added.
Maple Leaf Bakery UK is a leading specialty bakery producing bagels, croissants, Italian ciabatta and other bakery products for the UK and continental markets. It employs approximately 1,200 people in the UK across six facilities.