BFAWU regional officer Tony Lewis told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The ballot started on January 10 and will finish on January 24. The result will determine the next step.”
Union members were proposing to strike for just one day every two weeks if a majority agreed, showing their desire to minimise impact on the business, he said.
Full-time workers at the plant had seen shift hours increase from eight to 12 hours, but no increases in pay since 2 Sisters took it on when it bought Northern Foods in 2011, Lewis explained.
The factory makes prepared salads and sandwiches and was previously run by Northern Foods subsidiary Solway Foods.
‘Lack of consultation’
“They [the workers] were told August 2013 was the earliest they could put in for a pay rise and the company refused the pay rise. The company has not even offered inflation and it changed shift patterns with a lack of consultation. It has not taken into account childcare and transport.
“We understand these are difficult economic times, we understand employers have to change shift patterns from time to time and we know the company has had issues with the multiples it supplies. But if there’s a yes vote, the strike will be on unless it wants to come to an agreement.”
Employees at other former Northern Foods sites had been granted pay increases and this had angered workers at Corby, said Lewis. “We are always reluctant to call for industrial action, but members have had enough of being marginalised.” They felt “let down”, he added.
However, he stressed that the union wanted to work with management to come to a satisfactory resolution. “We want to work with the company and we are talking to the company.
“If there's a yes vote we are still willing to sit down with the company and come to a settlement.”
A spokeswoman for 2 Sisters Food Group told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We have been notified by the union that there's a ballot taking place. We have been talking to them for a few months now.”
She denied that any changes to permanent employee contracts had been done without consultation. “We have no intention of changing working practices and terms and conditions without consulting with them [workers] first.
“We are keen to work with the union and its members and it's possible some of the issues members have will be addressed during consultations.”