Unite regional officer Des Quinn told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The company has confirmed potential job losses because they’ve issued HR1s.”
An HR1 is a form that gives the secretary of state advance notice of collective redundancies. Employers are obliged to notify the government when they are proposing to make 20 or more roles redundant within a 90-day period.
2 Sisters has five sites in the West Midlands in Smethwick, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton. It has been in consultation with workers about working practices at four of these sites.
To make the sites more competitive, the company has put forward plans to change shift patterns and terms and conditions of working.
Unite agreed to consult its members about two options for new shift patterns.
New shift patterns
The union held a ballot over the proposed changes last week (May 24), in which three of the four West Midlands sites voted against the company’s proposals.
Quinn said: “We’ve ended up in a situation. There’s got to be some concessions now from the company. We’re working with them. We’re trying to resolve the problem.”
2 Sisters declined to comment.
The union is meeting with 2 Sisters management today (May 29) for further talks.
When 2 Sisters first proposed shift pattern changes in December last year, workers voted to strike and Unite planned a series of three 24-hour strikes for December 14, 18 and 21.
Unite said the main issues that angered the workforce were a pay offer of 20p an hour on their rate of £6.22 an hour and unacceptable shift patterns for the proposed seven-day week working.
‘Barely above the national minimum wage’
Quinn said: “The dispute centres on a hardline management that is keen to squeeze even further the incomes of workers whose pay is barely above the national minimum wage. The average pay is just above £12,000 a year.”
2 Sisters claimed the proposed change from a five- to a seven-day working pattern was critical to ensure the company met demand for chickens, which had increased since it won a new contract to supply a major supermarket.
The first strike took place on December 14 but the second was cancelled so that workers could enter further discussions with management.
Agreement was finally reached and the dispute ended on December 21 2012.
Quinn said: “The world’s a very different place since December. The financial circumstances of the company have changed since then. This meeting’s going to be interesting.”