Jacobs Douwe Egberts coffee factory: industrial action looms

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

The dispute between Unite with Jacob Douwe Egberts continues
The dispute between Unite with Jacob Douwe Egberts continues

Related tags Drinks

Jacob Douwe Egberts’s (JDE) Banbury coffee plant faces industrial action after members of trade union Unite voted in favour of the move.

Up to 300 employees at the site are planning a continuous overtime ban from Saturday 1 May in a continuing dispute between union members and JDE management over what Unite calls ‘fire and rehire’ tactics. The action could escalate to a full-scale strike in June if negotiations do not progress.

Unite claimed the cumulative impact of the overtime ban could lead to shortages of coffee brands such as ​Tassimo, Kenco and L’OR Coffee on supermarket shelves.

Joe Clarke – national officer for the food industry at Unite – said sections of the Banbury plant already relied on overtime to keep production on schedule and a ban would disrupt the company’s smooth supply.

“Recent managerial actions have soured what were harmonious employment relations for half a century,” ​Clarke added. “We have already made public our concerns about what we call ‘a simmering managerial toxic culture’​ at the Ruscote Avenue site.

‘Eleventh hour’

“However, even at this eleventh hour, we call on the company’s top executives to enter into constructive talks with Unite to resolve the outstanding issues.”

Despite the threat posed to production, JDE did not foresee any significant disruption.

Responding to the claims, a spokesman for JDE said: “The union has notified us that there will be a continuous overtime ban from 1 May. We are prepared for industrial action and are confident there will be no impact on the supply of our products.”

Unite launched a vote for industrial action at the start of the month in response to the Dutch-owned company issuing notice of dismissal and engagement for 291 employees.

The union also accused JDE’s Ruscote Avenue site of fostering a ‘simmering material toxic culture’ that was directly responsible for JDE’s plans to ‘fire and rehire’ almost 300 members of staff.

However, the manufacturer defended its position, citing an overwhelming need to reset Banbury’s manufacturing operations for the business to remain competitive.

‘Difficult changes’

The spokesman added: “We appreciate some associates may find the changes difficult and we respect their right to make their voices heard on the proposals. We are obviously disappointed that they have voted in favour of industrial action.

“Over the last few months, we have revised our proposals and the current proposals mean the majority of associates will gain financially and there is compensation for those who are financially impacted.”

JDE has now entered into individual consultation with employees to assess the impact of its proposals.

“We do not propose these changes lightly but there is an overwhelming need to reset Banbury manufacturing,”​ the spokesman continued.

“We continue to ask the union to constructively participate in the process and have asked the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service to support us in reaching an agreement that benefits both our associates and the business.”

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