Nestlé works with trade unions to protect employees and maintain food supply

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Nestlé UK & Ireland CEO Stefano Agostini has been working with unions
Nestlé UK & Ireland CEO Stefano Agostini has been working with unions

Related tags: coronavirus

Nestlé UK & Ireland has revealed it is working with two trade unions, GMB and Unite, on the issues around employee safety, working conditions and maintaining supply.

The news comes as it was revealed last week that Nestlé had reassured staff​after a worker at its chocolate factory in Halifax tested positive for Covid-19.

Both Unite and GMB said they had been working closely with Nestlé to ensure stocks were getting to supermarkets while employees were protected. 

Nestlé UK & Ireland CEO Stefano Agostini ​said: “I am grateful for the support of GMB and Unite at this time. 

“There is no greater priority for me than assuring the health and safety of our workers – and particularly those who are still leaving home to come to work in our factories, our distribution centres and across our supply chain to deliver for the nation. We will continue to keep employee welfare at the very top of our agenda.”

‘Refreshing’ 

Ross Murdoch, GMB national officer, ​said it had been “refreshing” to deal with Nestlé, which has sought to ensure it minimises the impact on its employees in a health, safety and welfare context and financially.

“They have worked constructively with GMB and its sister union Unite throughout. The balance has always been to respond to Government demands and requests on the needs of the general public in terms of food and drink, but done so in a way so that risk to employees is either eliminated or kept to an absolute minimum,” Murdoch said. 

Joe Clarke, national officer for the Unite’s food drink and beverage section, said that all three had been working “hand in glove” to ensure the nation was fed, the supermarkets were stocked and also that the general public had a broad range of food and beverage choices available to them. 

 

‘Comprehensive’

“The level of dialogue has been comprehensive and thoroughly ethical, which is a testament to the exceptional industrial relations that exist between the company and the trade unions, with all working collectively, in cooperation, for the best interests of all stakeholders,” Clarke added.

Agostini has also written an open letter to the company’s suppliers, customers, consumers and staff. 

He said that Nestlé had teams working around the clock across supply, manufacturing and distribution to keep its factories operating and its products on the shelves. 

He also revealed that Nestlé was working to help with the national effort in the wake of the coronavirus. 

“We are initially donating around £4m of products to the NHS, as well as other key workers and foodbanks. The total includes almost a million cups of coffee, more than 250,000 bottles of water and nearly three million confectionery products,”​ he said. 

“We are supporting foodbanks across the country with additional products, through our partnership with Fareshare in the UK and FoodCloud in Ireland, and we have been contributing to the food packages sent to 1.5m vulnerable people identified by the UK Government.”

Several food processing sectors have faced unrest from workers concerned about staff welfare amidst the pandemic in relation to aspects such as lack of personal protective equipment, imperfect social distancing measures and basic sick and furlough pay. They include Bakkavor​, 2 Sisters, Greencore​, Moy Park and ABP​.

Meanwhile, coronavirus’ threat to food industry workers has triggered one trade union to press the six top grocery retailers put staff before profit,​ ​accusing a major supplier of foregoing social distancing guidance and scrimping on pay.

Related topics: COVID-19

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