The protest followed what the union claimed were plans to cut workers’ hours and to extend the working day until 3am in its houmous-making division. The union was also concerned about other changes to shift pattern changes and employee transfers between Bakkavor sites.
The planned changes would mean staff would receive £14.40 less a week, it was claimed.
Sainsbury’s headquarters was selected for the protest because the retailer was one of the manufacturer’s biggest customers. “This is an issue for all of Bakkavor’s customers who have strong ethical and moral standards to uphold,” said the union.
GMB senior organiser Tony Warr welcomed Bakkavor’s decision to include the union in talks about pay, conditions and annual leave. But there remained “a fundamental difference of opinion” over “the compulsory transfer” of large numbers of staff from one site to another, he said.
‘Shift pattern change’
A Bakkavor spokesman said the manufacturer had been working to increase capacity to meet increased volume demand in houmous. “This has involved both investment and a need for a shift pattern change,” the spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
The proposed shift pattern was claimed to be already well established in another part of the business.
“We are naturally disappointed that the GMB is proposing this action despite our commitment to working closely and constructively with them,” said Bakkavor. “We continue to encourage further dialogue among all parties involved to ensure an agreement can be reached and any action avoided.”
Meanwhile, Sainsbury said: “All of our suppliers are expected to meet our code of conduct and, while we cannot comment on individual suppliers, we would encourage both sides to maintain an open dialogue.”
The planned protest at Sainsbury followed a similar protest at Tesco headquarters in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire on July 15. No one from Tesco was available to comment on the protest last month.
What they say about the Sainsbury protest
“Bakkavor Meals has been working to increase capacity to meet increased volume demand in houmous. This has involved both investment and a need for a shift pattern change. The shift pattern being proposed is already in place and well established in another part of the business.
“Bakkavor Meals has been and continues to be in ongoing, extensive dialogue with the GMB Union, employee representatives and employees regarding the proposal. This has involved working to address and resolve the concerns raised by the GMB, as well as engaging and clearly communicating with them on the changes proposed.”
“Issues around the shift patterns for workers producing houmous are unresolved and there remains a fundamental difference of opinion between the union and Bakkavor with regard to the compulsory transfer of large numbers of employees from one site to another.
“The company says this is not an issue for Sainsbury’s. They are wrong. It is an issue for all of their customers who have strong ethical and moral standards to uphold and who regularly audit Bakkavor to ensure these are maintained.”
“All of our suppliers are expected to meet our code of conduct and, while we cannot comment on individual suppliers, we would encourage both sides to maintain an open dialogue.”