Industrial action was planned to begin today and continue every Wednesday at Weetabix Kettering and Corby until September over ‘fire and rehire’ plans for engineering staff at the sites, which the union claimed would result in major cuts in shift allowances.
Other concerns were raised surrounding health and safety at the site, due to a lower number of engineers who would be on duty at certain times.
Unite agreed to suspend the strikes, while Weetabix agreed not to make any changes to engineer’s contracts until at least 1 September. The union said the move to deescalate was designed to allow meaningful negotiations to take place.
Sean Kettle, Unite regional officer, said: “Following constructive talks with Weetabix today Unite has agreed to suspend the strike action which was due to begin tomorrow [23 June].
“It is hoped that fresh negotiations will allow a deal to be reached that will be acceptable to our members.”
The union warned that if the planned negotiations do not lead to a satisfactory resolution of the dispute then renewed strike action could be called later this summer or early this autumn.
A Weetabix spokesperson commented: We are pleased that the proposed strike has been suspended and are confident that we can reach a long-term agreement with our employees' representatives.
"Our success over nearly 90 years has been built on a strong sense of teamwork, and a mutually agreeable solution on new ways of working will allow us to continue to invest in our people, plants, and products long into the future."
Unite’s spat with the cereal manufacturer followed a series of strikes held by union members at Jacob Douwe Egberts’ (JDE’s) Banbury production plans, over similar complaints of ‘fire and rehire’ practices.
Re-engaging staff contracts
However, JDE has since announced that it would move ahead with proposals to dismiss and re-engage staff at the plant after talks with the union broke down.
A JDE UK spokesman said: “Over the past five months we have repeatedly tried to negotiate with the union on changes to working practices at our factory in Banbury. They have been unwilling to discuss the terms of the proposals or provide any viable suggestions to modernise.
“As a result, we have been left with no choice but to issue notices of dismissal and re-engagement to those associates who have not voluntarily signed up to the new terms through individual consultation.”