Addo Food Group resolves dispute with union Unite

By Rick Pendrous contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Trade union

Addo Food Group, the former Pork Farms site, is in a dispute with Unite about union recognition
Addo Food Group, the former Pork Farms site, is in a dispute with Unite about union recognition
Addo Food Group – the Poole-based food manufacturer formerly known as Pork Farms – has agreed to recognise Unite following a positive meeting with union representatives earlier today (Friday, April 29).

A Unite spokesman told Foodmanufacture.co.uk that Addo had today abandoned its plans to derecognise the union following “constructive talks” ​between the two in what it previously claimed were “last-ditch talks” ​with Addo’s management today.

Pork Farms Group was rebranded as Addo Food Group last year, following the acquisition of the chilled savoury pastry business from Kerry Foods in 2014. It currently employs around 750 workers.

Unite claimed it had represented workers at the site in Sterte Avenue, Poole, Dorset over matters of pay and health and safety for more than five years.

However, after talks between the management and Unite’s regional secretary for the south west Peter Hughes, the company had said that it wanted to negotiate a new recognition agreement and a new facilities agreement, which would allow shop stewards to have an official role in dealing with industrial relations’ matters.

Constructive talks

“We had constructive talks with management today and the outcome is that the firm will continue to recognise Unite as the union for collective bargaining purposes,” ​said Hughes. “We also agreed that Unite will be allowed to approach non-union workers about the benefits of joining a trade union, if they so wish.

“Altogether, this has been a very sensible outcome for both sides and Unite will work in a constructive fashion with management to forge a new chapter in good employment relations in the months and years ahead.”

Labour MEP for the South West Clare Moody, who had also thrown her political weight behind the Poole workers, said: “I am delighted that Addo wishes to continue to build its relationship with Unite and am very much looking forward to visiting the site and speaking with the reps about how we can continue to work together.”

Before the announcement of the deal, a spokeswoman for the firm told this website that Unite’s membership among its workforce had been “dwindling”​ over the years – even prior to the acquisition by Addo – and that workers had felt “neglected”​ and “unrepresented”​ by the union.

She said the company’s employees had instead opted for a “works committee”​ to represent them.

In a statement issued before the deal with Addo was agreed, Unite said it had been given notice terminating the recognition agreement three months’ ago.

It claimed that a total of 500 workers had signed a petition calling for Unite to remain as the recognised union. Unite also claimed it had “several hundred”​ members at the factory and added its ability to recruit more members had been severely restricted by the “hardline stance”​ of the company – an accusation the company had denied.

‘Climate of fear’

Many workers at the site would like to join Unite, but there is a rampant climate of fear that is preventing those workers from signing-up,” ​said Hughes.

“We are holding last ditch talks ​[today] to persuade the management to rescind its decision, as we know from past experience in other workplaces that union recognition is conducive to good industrial relations between management and workers.

Unite claimed to be the largest trade union in Britain and Ireland, with more than 1.4M members working across all sectors of the economy. It said the Poole factory supplied food products to Sainsbury.

‘Allegations are untrue and defamatory’

“Unite’s allegations are categorically untrue and defamatory,”​ Addo said in a statement today before the agreement with Unite was announced. “The rights of our employees are of the upmost importance to us and we always ensure they are protected. This decision was driven by the dwindling Unite membership at Poole and our workforce telling us, when we took over the site, that they felt neglected and unrepresented by Unite.

“We of course wanted to discuss these issues with Unite at the time they were raised by staff and invited them in to speak to us on several occasions but they did not respond.”

The statement added: “We have a well-attended on-site Works Committee in place and this is overwhelmingly welcomed by the workforce. The committee fully protects the rights of staff and is managed by the staff themselves. We are continuing our discussions with Unite and, in the last six weeks, they have accepted our invitation to come on site in order to speak directly to staff and encourage membership.

Related topics: Bakery, Chilled foods, People & Skills

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