Bakkavör says staff have protest right but stresses union ‘disappointment’

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Trade union

Bakkavör says staff have protest right but stresses union ‘disappointment’
Bakkavör says staff have the right to demonstrate against proposed redundancies and contractual changes at its Bourne salad site, but is "disappointed" by trade union Unite’s understanding of the situation.

Unite members held a demonstration in Spalding town centre at noon today (Friday), to protest against the loss of up to 170 jobs at Bakkavör Bourne, which employs over 1,000 staff and makes prepared vegetables, salads and fruit for major multiples.

Other grievances include company 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.

‘Vulnerable workers’

Unite national officer for food and drink Jennie Formby told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the protest attracted a strong turnout and "fantastic support from the people of Spalding, 90% of whom supported the action and signed a supportive petition".

She said the protest was organised 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”.

Asked whether Unite was considering strike action, she added: “We haven’t gone that far yet, but I wouldn’t rule anything out.”​ Precise levels of unionisation at the Bourne site remain unpublicised.

Bakkavör 'disappointed'

Bakkavör is engaged in a 90-day consultation period with staff, before completing the changes including “no more than 170 redundancies” ​by January 17, and it stresses that the changes are necessary to ensure the long-term viability of the site.

Moreover, the firm’s spokesman said that Unite failed to see “serious external pressures impacting the Bourne Prepared Produce business and food sector as a whole”​, adding that Bakkavör was committed to competitive terms and conditions for employees amidst “difficult trading conditions”.

“We appreciate that the extensive consultation process over the last three months has been a difficult time for everyone on site at Bourne,​” he said, “and…would like to thank our staff for their continued patience and understanding in this matter.”

Formby said: "They say they're 'disappointed' with us and that we don't understand, but we dont understand how they think we're stupid enough not to know that this was their own fault: the orders the firm has lost, the fact that the average weekly wage is only £199."

"But we're still talking to the company, and actually have a meeting planned with it in January," ​she added.

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