The Council, established by the government in November last year as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy to engage with industry leaders, met for the first time at the end of January and set its priorities for the next 12 months. It has said it will focus on boosting skills, agricultural productivity, improving the nation’s nutrition and building on emerging proposals to establish a sector deal.
There are 16 members (see below) represented on the group, which include: Stobart Group’s Iain Ferguson, who is chairman; Sainsbury’s brand director Judith Batchelar; Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) chairman Sir Peter Kendall; and Ian Wright, director-general of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).
GMB has claimed that the food and drink manufacturing industry alone is worth £28.8bn to the UK economy and is supported by 400,000 workers. It is now calling on the Council to ensure that trade unions and workers are invited to be involved in the future work of the group.
Eamon O’Hearn, GMB national officer, said: “Without a true voice for the workers on the Food and Drink Sector Council, it seriously risks becoming an exclusive talking shop for big business.
“Our members deserve more than crumbs off the table from the bosses of the big food and drink businesses.”
Bill Esterson, shadow minister for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said that during preparations to leave the EU, this was a particularly “crucial time” for this industry and the people working in it.
“All voices should be heard to ensure that the future work of the Food and Drink Sector Council accurately reflects the needs of everyone involved in the industry and not just big business,” he said.
“To enable the full potential of this group to be realised, it needs to be as inclusive as possible and I fully back the calls for trade union and worker involvement in their future work.”
A Department for environment and food and rural affairs spokesperson said:“The Food and Drink Sector Council, which met for the first time last week, is an industry-led group that has been established to improve productivity from farm to fork.
“The council will be engaging with a wide range of industry representatives on how best to secure the UK’s position as a global leader in sustainable, affordable and high-quality food and drink”.
List of Food and Drink Sector Council members:
• Iain Ferguson – chairman, Stobart Group
• Judith Batchelar – brand director, Sainsbury’s
• Gavin Darby – ceo, Premier Foods
• Leendert den Hollander – president, The Institute of Grocery Distribution; vice-president and general manager Great Britain, Coca-Cola European Partners
• Sir Peter Kendall – chairman, AHDB
• Dame Fiona Kendrick – chairman, Nestlé UK and Ireland
• Nick Varney – ceo, Merlin Entertainments
• Jo Whitfield – ceo, Co-op Food
• Ian Wright – director-general, FDF
• Graham Hutcheon – managing director Edrington; chairman, Confederation of British Industries Scotland
• Lord Deben – chairman, Sancroft
• Ursula Lidbetter – chair, Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership
• George Weston – ceo, Associated British Foods
• Andy Richardson – head of corporate affairs, Volac
• Cassandra Stavrou – founder, Propercorn
• Nick Whelan – group chief executive, Dale Farm