Management had issued a letter to all employees at the factory, which also makes Jacob’s Club chocolate biscuit, unilaterally suspending company sick pay with immediate effect, the GMB said. In addition, it claimed they advised staff it intended to source products made at Aintree elsewhere.
UB’s savoury TUC branded biscuits, for example, were in the process of being outsourced to a UB production facility in Poland, the GMB claimed.
As a result, 800 of its members at the Aintree site voted, in an official strike ballot that closed on October 30, by 84% in favour of industrial action.
UB announced last week that it had been purchased by Yildiz, the parent company of the Turkish Manufacturer Ulker Biskuvi Sanayi.
Ulker has pledged investment in UB’s UK sites, particularly Aintree, as part of aims to become the third largest manufacturer of biscuits in the world.
“A meeting took place at Aintree on November 5 to discuss resolution to a current dispute at the site,” said Stuart Fegan, GMB national officer for the food manufacturing industry.
Source products elsewhere
“However senior management of UB have now issued a letter to all employees at Aintree unilaterally suspending company sick pay with immediate effect and advising the workforce that they are looking to source the products manufactured at the Aintree site elsewhere.”
“The GMB is advising the Trades Union Congress and affiliated unions with members in other plants of the position and asking them to resist any attempts of management to move Aintree’s products to other UB sites and possibly overseas in what we believe is a deliberate move to inflame the dispute at Aintree, which we have made some progress in resolving.”
UB said it had been in discussion with employees and trade union representatives at Aintree for more than 12 months regarding working practices at the site as part of a review of operations.
‘Record levels of absenteeism’
“In response to record levels of absenteeism, with regret, we were forced to temporarily suspend company sick pay at the factory,” the manufacturer said in a statement.
“We have confirmed that anyone on long term absence will continue to be paid, and all cases will be reviewed on a case-case basis. We have not taken this step lightly, however, in the circumstances we consider we have no alternative.
“We have yet to be served official notice of any industrial action and remain open to further talks since we believe dialogue is the only way to resolve these issues. Suffice to say we are still hopeful that further discussions will lead to a positive outcome.”