2 Sisters Gunstones staff in ‘last-ditch’ pay talks

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

'More stirke action if a pay deal can't be agreed,' says union official John Higgins
'More stirke action if a pay deal can't be agreed,' says union official John Higgins

Related tags Trade union

Staff at 2 Sisters Food Group’s Gunstones bakery in Sheffield will hold last-ditch talks over a pay dispute with management before deciding on further strike action, it has emerged.

Up to 550 employees took part in a 48-hour stoppage last week (June 15–16), after the firm decided to force a pay freeze on staff at the site, claimed the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).

Union officials will make a last-ditch attempt to agree staff pay in a meeting with 2 Sisters management next Tuesday (June 30), full time BFAWU official John Higgins told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

“We’re meeting to discuss what we’re prepared to keep and what we would be prepared to lose from the contracts,” ​he said.

Workers who had been at the site for more than six years were on more pay than those who had started more recently, said Higgins.

Move across to minimum wage

Management wanted all staff to move across to a soon-to-rise minimum wage, which would be supplemented by overtime, he added.

“But we need to work on something more secure,” ​Higgins said. “We’ve got staff making products at the factory who can’t even afford to buy them in the supermarkets – it’s not right,” ​he said.

If a deal wasn’t agreed with 2 Sisters staff, a second 48-hour strike would take place between July 17–18, Higgins warned.

“If we need to, we will escalate the campaign further in the future,” ​he added.

Previous strike action had garnered the support of 2 Sisters’s suppliers and other bakery firms, Higgins claimed.

Union officials and members had initially agreed with the company to keep any pay negotiations in abeyance due to over 400 redundancies being made, BFAWU claimed.

However, 2 Sisters refused to offer staff an increase in pay following the redundancy consultation period, citing overall cost of the redundancies as a reason for non-movement on pay, it added.

Industrial action

As a result, BFAWU members balloted for industrial action, but gave 2 Sisters a six-week negotiation window.

Five days before the first strike, union officials made a 4% pay increase offer​ over a two-year period to 2 Sisters, which was refused by the firm.

“What we asked for as a show of good faith was a chance to renegotiate,” ​Higgins said.

“We asked for a 4% increase over the next two years: 3% for the next year and 1% for the year just gone.

A spokesman for Gunstones bakery previously told FoodManufacture.co.uk: "We are keen to continue meaningful talks with colleagues and their union representatives so that we can reach a mutually satisfactory conclusion.

"We hope that further industrial action can be avoided whilst talks are ongoing. We appreciate that this is a difficult time for those involved.

"However, our number one priority is securing a better future for everyone at this site."

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