Workers are protesting at company plans to shed around 170 jobs at the Leicestershire-based site – which employs over 1,000 staff and makes prepared vegetables, salads and fruits for major supermarkets – in the New Year, following the completion of a 90-day consultation period with staff.
Other grievances include Bakkavör’s plans to cut shift and overtime pay, introduce compulsory overtime hours at flat pay rates while only guaranteeing 35 hours pay per week, removing pay for breaks, removing Bank Holiday premiums and cutting holiday entitlement by up to four days per year.
Bakkavör management say the changes are necessary for the site to “remain sustainable” and secure the vast majority of jobs on site, while still offering terms and conditions in line with rivals, an assertion that Unite disputes.
Good turnout expected
Unite national officer for food and drink Jennie Formby told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the union expected a “good turnout” from the workforce, subject to shift patterns, with the location chosen because Spalding is Bakkavör’s UK headquarters.
She explained that the protest, planned in the town centre from noon on Friday, had been planned to raise awareness amongst residents on the plight of “extremely low-paid and vulnerable workers, many of whom are Eastern European and for whom English is a second language”.
Adding that many of them had not been properly aware of the changes to terms and conditions before Unite publicised the issue, she said:“If there was any justice, it would be Bakkavör management on the line, not the jobs of these loyal workers.
“These are poorly paid workers, with many having to hold down two jobs to make ends meet. Lots of people at this plant are married or live together, which means entire households will suffer [as a result of job losses].”
Bakkavör: trying to curb job losses
Bakkavör declined to comment directly on news of the demonstration, but a spokesman said in a previous statement that the firm was working 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.”