2 Sisters ends dispute with workers

By Lorraine Mullaney

- Last updated on GMT

2 Sisters will offer staff training on dignity and respect in the workplace
2 Sisters will offer staff training on dignity and respect in the workplace

Related tags: Unite the union, Trade union

2 Sisters’ dispute with workers at its West Midlands sites is now over and the strike planned for today (December 21) has been cancelled.

Workers first voted to strike over pay, working conditions and an alleged culture of bullying and beatings in a Unite union ballot on December 7.

Unite planned a series of three 24-hour strikes for December 14, 18 and 21.

The first strike took place on December 14 but the second was cancelled so that workers could enter further discussions with management.

A spokesman for 2 Sisters said: “We are pleased to announce that 2 Sisters Food Group and Unite the union have reached agreement on pay and terms and conditions of employment at the four UK poultry cutting sites in the West Midlands. This brings an end to the current dispute and removes the threat of future strike action. No strike will take place on Friday December 21.”

Hailing the outcome as “a victory for worker solidarity”​, Unite said the company had made “a much improved offer to the workers”​.

Unite regional officer Des Quinn said: “This is a great victory for the workforce and a tribute to their unity and determination in the face of some very tough challenges recently​.”

Above-inflation one-year pay award

The key elements of the new package include an “improved above-inflation one-year pay award” ​that will be backdated to August 1 2012 and “significant”​ joint training about dignity and respect in the workplace.

Management’s proposed shift from a five- to a seven-day working pattern was a key part of the dispute. 2 Sisters insisted that this change was critical to ensure the company met demand for its chickens, which had increased since winning a new contract to supply a major supermarket.

It claimed that a continued dispute on this matter would jeopardise the creation of a further 500 jobs.

A pilot scheme into the feasibility of seven-day working will now take place at the Dial Lane site in West Bromwich.

500 new jobs

A spokesman for 2 Sisters said: “Agreement has been reached as result of the joint commitment by the company and Unite to work together to find solutions that give employees fair pay and put in place the necessary foundations to sustain jobs and create a further 500 new jobs at the sites, to help meet customer demand.  

“As part of the agreement, discussions will now continue between the company and Unite to develop new shift patterns across the four sites that introduce seven-day working. The plan is to have a pilot scheme up and running in the first quarter of 2013 and full transition to the new patterns in the summer of 2013.”

The alleged culture of bullying and beatings will be tackled with a new training programme.

2 Sisters said: “A substantial investment in training will take place, sponsored by the company and Unite, to underpin the commitment to building a culture that ensures all employees are treated with respect and dignity at work.”

The union is consulting its members about the package. The consultation will be completed in early January.

Related topics: Meat, poultry & seafood

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