Hotel Chocolat: We did not refuse to deal with the GMB

By Elaine Watson and Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Hotel chocolat, Chocolate, Trades union congress, Gmb

Hotel Chocolat: New jobs
Hotel Chocolat: New jobs
Hotel Chocolat has vigorously denied claims by the GMB union that it has not properly canvassed staff over union recognition at its Huntingdon chocolate factory.

The firm was speaking to FoodManufacture.co.uk following claims by the GMB that the upmarket chocolatier “refused to do business with the union on behalf of the many GMB members who work at the factory”.

People and communication director Lynn Cunningham said: “Hotel Chocolat would like to clarify that it is not correct that the company ‘refused to do business’ with the GMB earlier this year.

“There was an exchange of correspondence, which had not reached a conclusion prior to GMB notifying us of its application​ [to become the formally recognised trade union for the factory workforce].

“Hotel Chocolat is, however, extremely disappointed that GMB has publicised quotes from what was clearly private correspondence and has published a press release reflecting its own views without due consideration of the views of all the employees of Hotel Chocolat and of the Central Arbitration Committee, who will ultimately determine the validity or otherwise of the application GMB has referred to.”

She added: “Our open relationship with our team is extremely important to Hotel Chocolat and our people have not conveyed an interest in forming part of the GMB union.

“Hotel Chocolat will of course liaise with the Central Arbitration Committee in the event that we receive any formal notification of an application for recognition.​"

Formal application

The GMB has submitted a formal application to the Central Arbitration Committee in an attempt to become the formally recognised trade union for the factory workforce.

But no date had yet been set for a work-place unionisation ballot, said GMB organiser Arek Kusmierek: “There isn’t a set timeframe, it’s conventional in this situation to wait for the employer’s response before making further moves.

“The company told us there is no union support whatsoever, but there is no evidence for this.”

Significant support

Kusmierek claims that the company has "not properly canvassed its workforce​”, and that the number of staff who signed a petition at the factory – “well over 50 signatories ​[out of a workforce of 70]”– demonstrated significant support for the GMB.

Hotel Chocolat, which has 44 chocolate shops in the UK, recently raised £3.7m from an innovative 'chocolate bond'.

The money will be invested in expanding the Huntingdon factory, opening 30 shops over the next three years, and building a new chocolate factory in Saint Lucia.

Related topics: Confectionery

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