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.
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.”
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.”