Unite reads riot act to Bakkavör Bourne bosses

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Currency

Unite reads riot act to Bakkavör Bourne bosses
Unite has written to management at Bakkavör’s Bourne fresh produce site insisting that better site management could reduce the need for planned redundancies and “savage attacks” on workers’ terms and conditions of employment.

Bosses at the site, which employs over 1,000 staff and makes prepared vegetables, salads and fruits for major supermarkets, have warned that up to 170 workers face redundancy ​in the New Year, following a 90-day consultation period with staff.

Unite national officer for food and drink Jennie Formby told FoodManufacture.co.uk that staff at Bourne are “taking the pain”​ for site mismanagement, although Bakkavör insists that problems are due to financial pressures.

These include losses due to fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates and tough competition, and a company spokesman said: “Trading conditions are difficult and we are competing in a marketplace with other businesses that are able to maintain lower costs.”

Bakkavör: changes will ‘safeguard’ jobs

“In order for us to remain sustainable we have had to make changes…to secure the vast majority of jobs at the site, whilst still offering terms and conditions in line with, or on average better than our competitors.”

Bakkavör said that hourly rates for current employees will remain unchanged, despite “lower pay for future recruits in some areas of the business”.​ Unite, however, is angered by company changes to holiday pay and other staff premiums.

Said Formby: “Management are saying that pay rates have not changed but that isn’t strictly true: workers will now have to do longer hours at a flat rate, a system of unpaid overtime is being introduced, pay for breaks cut and shift premiums abolished.

“Four days of holiday have been removed, and coming on the back of a pay freeze for the last three years employees are really feeling the pinch.”

Redundancy alternatives

In a letter to Bakkavor management at Bourne that came into the possession of FoodManufacture.co.uk, Unite suggests that alternative cost-saving measures could mean fewer redundancies and remove the need to alter terms and conditions.

Despite the gloomy economic outlook Unite wrote that it believes there will be sales growth over the next five years of up to £10m at Bourne, because the overall market is growing.

The union addeed that, although Bourne had lost significant and important business over several years, it has identified opportunities to gain new contracts, but only if service standards to customers improved.

It also isisted that procurement improvements are possible within the wider Bakkavör group, suggesting that, despite proposed reductions,​management levels are still too high in areas such as general management, finance and HR.

Company ‘disappointed’ with Unite

A Bakkavör spokesman said that the firm was still discussing alternative working patterns with Unite to “further minimise”​ redundancy numbers.

He added: “We have engaged with Unite throughout the consultation process and are disappointed with the level of understanding regarding the pressures impacting the UK food industry, as well as those affecting the Bourne prepared produce business.​”

But Unite said that there was a lack of management willingness to explore synergies between Bourne and other Bakkavör sites that could mean savings, adding that it believes the charges levied on Bourne by the Bakkavör Group are "excessive for the value provided".

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