Samworth union row intensifies after ‘bullying’ letter

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Kettleby Foods: The bakers’ union has accused Samworth of ‘intimidation’ at the site
Kettleby Foods: The bakers’ union has accused Samworth of ‘intimidation’ at the site
Samworth Brothers’ long-running dispute with a bakers’ union is set to intensify after the manufacturer was accused of circulating a “bullying” letter to its workers, in a bid to sign away their collective bargaining rights.

The Bakery Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), has produced evidence of a letter it claimed was given to employees at Samworth’s Kettleby Foods site in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.

A BFAWU protest will being held outside the Marks and Spencer (M&S) store on Humberstone Gate in Leicester from 2pm tomorrow (July 30) to encourage the public to boycott Samworth Brothers products sold there.

BFAWU union representative George Atwall told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the demonstration was to make M&S’s customers aware of the tactics currently being deployed by Samworth.

He said: “By distributing this template letter, Samworth is actively encouraging its line managers to coerce workers ... to sign away their bargaining rights.

“They’re also circulating a petition for workers to sign, which declares to the Central Arbitration Committee​ [CAC] that they have no interest in joining the union.”

Collective bargaining rights

However, Samworth Brothers told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the evidence presented by BFAWU in its application for collective bargaining rights to the CAC indicated “a level of union support by our staff that is significantly below the 50% that is required for union recognition.”

The latest development marks an escalation in the row between Samworth and the union, after the dismissal of employee Kumaran Bose. The BFAWU claimed he was unfairly sacked after helping to recruit more than 50% of the Kettleby workforce to the union.

Furthermore, Samworth said Bose was dismissed because he sought to influence disciplinary proceedings by posting a video in which he exposed the names of three female members of staff who had made complaints against him.

A spokeswoman said: “The video contained language that was derogatory and inflammatory. The appeal ruled that posting the video was a premeditated decision to influence the investigation and a serious breach of trust.”

‘Stepping up’ intimidation

In a blog on the BFAWU website, activist Michael Barker accused Samworth of “stepping up”​ the alleged intimidation of its employees.

He claimed workers were presently having to sit through management briefings where they are told that while it is their democratic right to join a union, to do so “would be to act against the best interests of their employer by acting to drive a wedge between management and workers”​.

Barker said that Samworth’s “intimidation” ​was being further supplemented by the petition.

He said: “In a serious display of contempt for their employees, the petition has the names of all workers printed on it already and workers are then asked by their line managers to sign it. If the workers don’t sign the first time, they are asked a second time at a later date, and then a third time.

“If they still don’t want to sign, they are invited into the manager’s office to sign the petition!”

Barker added: “The union would, as ever, prefer to simply engage in civil negotiations with Samworth bosses to stop them from bullying workers, but as they evidently won’t stop, in this instance the union is correct.”

Related topics: People & Skills

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