Unite has accused Kerry of taking a “hard-line anti-union” stance after it refused to enter into discussions over the potential cuts, claiming it did not recognise the union's authority at the site.
Unite regional officer, Malcolm Hancock, said the decision was a “snub” to the 45 workers represented by the union at Kerry’s Europarc facility. He also claimed Kerry’s actions were blocking Unite’s ability to carry out its role as a trade union.
He said: “I am deeply concerned to hear a rumour that the company has taken the view that the local full-time officer will not be allowed to attend any meetings on site whatsoever. I trust that this is merely Chinese whispers.
“We have now entered the 90-day consultation period on the job losses. This is required by law, yet the company has excluded Unite from this process.”
The firm announced last week that unless a solution was found to end falling sales, production at the site would be stopped and jobs would be cut. Kerry blamed increasing competition in the frozen meal sector for the potential closure.
However, Unite said that it intended to fully support its members at the site. It accused Kerry of showing a lack of respect to the Grimsby community, where unemployment levels are already high.
Hancock said: “Unite is keen to give maximum support to its members at this difficult time. However, Kerry Foods has refused to allow Unite to carry out its legitimate role as a trade union.
“This is a snub to the workforce, which is facing a bleak period with the UK jobless total at the highest it has been for a generation. It also shows a lack of respect to the Grimsby community generally.”
He also urged Kerry to re-think its stance and enter into “meaningful and genuine” talks with Unite and explain the reasons for the plant's potential closure.
Closure of the site will have devastating effects for the workforce and the local economy, according to Hancock.
But Kerry dismissed Unite’s claims and said that it had never recognised the union as a workers' representative at the site.
Frank Hayes, director of corporate affairs at Kerry, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “This union has never been recognised at this facility. It has very few members at the site and has never been involved here, before the announcement or since.
Our consultation has begun and our committee is discussing the situation with elected representatives of the workers.”