2 Sisters denies union claims it’s cutting workers’ rights group-wide

By Lorraine Mullaney

- Last updated on GMT

Supporters of RF Brookes' workers demonstrated outside M&S
Supporters of RF Brookes' workers demonstrated outside M&S

Related tags: England

2 Sisters Food Group has denied union claims that it’s reducing its workers’ terms and conditions across the group.

Andrew Hanson, head of communications at 2 Sisters Food Group, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “These are localised site-by-site consultations. They are not group-wide.”

Sam Vickers, organising regional secretary at the Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “I represent three sites – Matthew Walker, Dunstons and Pennine Foods. They ​[2 Sisters] are trying to drive terms and conditions down at all of them.

“It’s going to backfire on them. People’s morale isn​t even low anymore. It’s gone.”

Vickers contacted FoodManufacture.co.uk after reading reports of 2 Sisters’ plans to reduce workers’ rights at Carlisle ready meals manufacturer Cavaghan & Gray, Fox’s Biscuits in West Batley, West Yorkshire, and its chicken plant in Scunthorpe.

'Twisted Sisters'

A dispute has also been ongoing at 2 Sisters’ pie and pizza manufacturing site RF Brookes in South Wigston, Leicestershire. Last month hundreds of RF Brookes’ staff went on strike in protest against proposed changes to redundancy packages and workers’ rights groups have dubbed the company “Twisted Sisters”​.

Hanson said: “RF Brookes is a specific case being a heavily loss-making site, which we inherited as part of the Brookes Avana deal. We had to take tough action to give it a future.”

But Vickers said 2 Sisters was also in consultation with staff at Pennine Foods in West Yorkshire, which he claimed was profitable.

“We’ve got proof that Pennine’s making money,​ said Vickers. ​The company just doesn’t care about the workforce. They take £12M bonuses on the backs of people whose terms and conditions are being reduced.”

Of the 600 workers at Pennine Foods, 500 are union members and BFAWU is recommending that they reject 2 Sisters’ proposals to cut sick pay entitlement and pay for working shifts and overtime.

“We’re expecting a massive rejection,”​ said Vickers. “Then we’ll be able to sit down with the company and discuss things reasonably.”

Industrial action

Vickers said he would do his utmost to avoid industrial action.

“I’d like to sit down and talk,”​ he said. “Even if it takes me a year to come to a solution. A few years ago I’d have given a definite 'Yes' to industrial action, but things are different now.”

He said when 2 Sisters first took over Pennine Foods they gave the same presentation they’d given group-wide, which was all about looking after the customer.

“Normally there’d be something about the employees in there,”​ he said. “But not once did they mention the staff. They couldn’t give a monkey’s.”

“Working people are losing vast amounts of money under these proposals,”​ he said. “Some staff’s wages are being cut by as much as £78 a week and they’re on rubbish wages to start with.”

Hanson said: “It’s about making sure that our sites remain viable for the future. It’s managed on a site-by-site basis.”

Vickers said: “They want to be a £3bn company but they’re doing so by taking money from the workforce. Working people need to look around them and take stock of what’s happening.”

Related topics: Business News, Chilled foods, Manufacturing

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Where is common sense approach

Posted by John,

Why do comments on subjects like this always degenerate to sniping remarks?

The two sides here need to listen to each other and then decide on their respective action. Let's not forget that principles do not pay mortgages or put food on the table or increase sales. We all face an uncertain future and before the positions of each party become entrenched maybe each should look outside at the current financial environment and how they can work together towards a more stable future.

In my experience a happy (but not subservient) workforce does more to improve productivity and efficiency than workers who feel they are not valued. On the other hand, a strong profitable company means career opportunities, job security, self esteem for its workers.

The answer to this issue is a compromise – is it not better to arrive at this position sooner rather than later?

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Scum Floats? Yawn

Posted by Simon,

Method of cost reduction? Well, let's explore that. No business would reduce the workforce to a point it puts their reputation at stake – or would cause harm to the business. You speak with emotion, not information. So, we should let a business that turns over £2.3bn , employs circa 30,000 people to go abroad? Well Tim, I hope you don't go for political office! Why not explore 2 Sisters' reasons for taking the action it does?

Peter, 'Mr supplier', who says 'they impose unreasonable demands on us'. Well, like 2SFG they take a commercial stance and use it, like you do. If you do not like dealing with them, walk away, or use someone who can negotiate better than you. Let's explore your problem. A business uses economies of scale on its supply base to get better rates. Is this not standard? I would rather be paid every 60 days a rate over ex amount of years, than no rate at all. Have a think!

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Scum floats

Posted by Tim,

While the future of 2 Sisters is in the balance, the management team are hell-bent on reducing cost. While this is an admirable motivation, the method of cost reduction is of issue here. Typically the 'local' workforce are the easiest target and with 'the jobs market an issue' who will fight back? Sorry to disagree with Simon the car fanatic (comment 2). I do feel that they would be indirectly doing the country a favour by leaving. Lets help them go …

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