JDE said there was an overwhelming need to reset Banbury’s manufacturing operations for the business to remain competitive.
“We will compensate associates who are financially impacted, and the majority of associates will gain financially as a result of the latest proposed changes,” a JDE spokesman added.
“We are disappointed that the union has decided to ballot for industrial action at this early stage when we are still in collective consultation. We continue to urge the union committee to constructively participate in the consultation process and have asked ACAS to help us both reach an agreement that benefits our associates and the business.”
Unite’s members are currently voting on whether to take industrial action, with the option to strike, in response to the Dutch-owned company issuing notice of dismissal and engagement for 291 employees. The ballot closes on Thursday 15 April.
Unite national officer for the food industry Joe Clarke said: “Britain’s loyal army of coffee drinkers needs to have confidence that the household names they purchase during their weekly supermarket shop are produced by a firm with a good reputation in the way it treats its staff.
“Unfortunately, at present, Jacobs Douwe Egberts falls well below that benchmark as this highly-profitable multinational plans to ‘fire and rehire’ its workforce during a global pandemic – this leaves a sour taste in the mouth. It is the dregs when it comes to employment relations.”
The union also accused JDE’s Ruscote Avenue site of fostering a ‘simmering material toxic culture’. The claims stemmed from allegations of assault at a 2019 Christmas party.
‘Manifestation of this culture’
“We believe that the callous ‘fire and rehire’ plans are another manifestation of this culture,” Clarke added.
“Unite reiterates its call for constructive talks with the management on the plant’s future, before JDE suffers a consumer backlash and their products remain on the supermarket shelves because coffee lovers are angry at the treatment of these dedicated employees.”
JDE confirmed that an incident took place at a staff event on Friday 13 December 2019, but refuted Unite’s allegations.
“Following a thorough joint investigation with the management team and union convener, the investigation was closed and the company's disciplinary processes were acted upon,” said a spokesman.
“At JDE, we take a zero-tolerance approach to any behaviour that falls below our standards and values. We strongly believe in providing a safe working environment for all our employees.”