The company has insisted in a statement that the changes will keep the plant sustainable, benefiting all workers there. It has also stressed that the new regime, which trade union Unite has claimed involves sacking and reemploying 300 workers on inferior pay and conditions, will not involve a reduction in headcount.
In a statement, JDE said: “Banbury has been a proud member of the local community for generations and remains a key part of the JDE network. We have been making coffee here for 55 years and want to continue to do so.
“We can confirm that we are looking at modernising some of our working practices to keep the factory sustainable which benefits all of our employees. The proposed changes do not include a reduction in headcount.
'Full and thorough consultation'
“We respect the right of our employees to have trade union representation which is why we have entered into consultation with union representatives on the proposed changes. We have updated our employees regularly on the legal process as required and have made clear that any proposed changes are subject to a full and thorough consultation.
“We are in the process of consultation with Unite the Union and our employees on the proposed changes and as such we are unable to comment on ongoing discussions. We are committed to working together to reach an agreement that benefits both the company and our employees.”
Unite claimed on 4 March that talks with JD Egberts Kenco's management had broken down after the company served notice to dismiss and re-engage the whole workforce at Banbury before starting consultations.
300 members at Kenco coffee plant
Unite has 300 members at the Ruscote Avenue site and has pledged to campaign against the decision and take the workers’ case to the company’s most senior executives.
Unite national officer for the food industry Joe Clarke said: “In nearly 30 years of union work I have never encountered such a negative approach from an employer to ignore the established consultation and negotiating procedures. It has come like a bolt out of the blue.
Clarke said the dispute was a shame, because "previously Unite had enjoyed good industrial relations with the firm".
'Won't put up with strong-arm tactics'
“If the multinational company is having difficulties at Banbury, Unite is prepared to engage constructively to meet the challenges – but what we won’t put up with is strong-arm tactics which unilaterally destroy employment.
“We call on the company to withdraw its ‘sack and reemploy’ diktat and enter into meaningful negotiations. Meanwhile, Unite is lobbying for the support of European affiliated trade unions and global trade unions.
“We will not stand by and see our members’ livelihoods destroyed, and the collateral damage to the local Banbury economy and social fabric. The campaign now moves into top gear.”
Elsewhere, Unite was planning strike action by its 160 members at drinks giant Greene King from 12-13 March.
The industrial action would involve delivery drivers, draymen, brewery production staff and warehouse workers at Bury St Edmunds, the firm’s Suffolk headquarters, and distribution centres at Abingdon, Oxfordshire and Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, Unite said.
Douwe Egberts maker DE Master Blenders 1753 merged with Mondelez's coffee business, which included the Kenco Banbury plant, in 2014.