Weetabix strikes loom

By Rod Addy contact

- Last updated on GMT

Weetabix returned strong financial results for 2020
Weetabix returned strong financial results for 2020

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Engineers employed by Weetabix are set to begin strike action tomorrow (Tuesday September 21) over company plans to carry out an extensive 'fire and rehire’ programme with the workforce.

If workers accept the new terms many would lose up to £5,000 a year in wages, Unite has claimed. The workers taking industrial action are all members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, are based at the company’s factories at Burton Latimer and Corby in Northamptonshire. Both sites will have picket lines in place.

Jacobs Douwe Egberts recently agreed a pay deal with Unite after a spat with the trade union last month over a similar 'fire and rehire' strategy​.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s members at Weetabix will not accept being fired and rehired. Unite will fight to defend our members affected by this disgraceful practice. It is abhorrent that it is legal for companies, like Weetabix, to issue ‘fire and rehire’ ultimatums to their staff.

'Totally unjustifiable'
“This is a totally unjustifiable assault on workers’ wages and conditions. Last year Weetabix’s profits went up by almost 20% to more than £81m.”
The strike on Tuesday is scheduled to last for 48 hours, with a further 48 hour strike planned from Tuesdays throughout the autumn and the final strike scheduled to begin on Tuesday 30 November. 

A spokesperson from the Weetabix Food Company said: "We are sorry to see our engineering team going on strike, but respect their right to do so. Over nearly 90 years we've built a strong relationship with our workforce, and to stay competitive for the next 90 years we need to bring in necessary new ways of working.

“It is unfair and inaccurate to compare this with other disputes that require new contracts to be signed or face dismissal; this is not a choice we're considering at present. We remain in close consultation with our engineers and their representatives and are confident that the opportunity still exists to find a resolution that creates future shared success.

'No impact on stock availability'

“We are not expecting to see any impact on our stock availability as a result of this or future strikes, due to robust planning and a resilient supply chain.”

Unite has claimed the strikes would cause widespread delays to production and lead to shortages of Weetabix and other popular products made by the factories including Alpen, Weetos and Oatibix.
The union underlined Weetabix's strong financial performance since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. It returned annual net turnover of £331.5m in the year to 30 September, 5.7% up on the previous year, with operating profit of £80.9m, a 51.1% increase on the previous year.
Unite regional secretary for the East Midlands Paresh Patel said: “Weetabix could end this dispute by simply withdrawing the attacks on workers’ pay. Strike action will inevitably lead to severe disruption of Weetabix’s products but this is entirely of the company’s own makings."

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