Weetabix staff protest over latest ‘fire and rehire’ plans

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Unite memebrs are holding protests over proposed 'fire and rehire' plans at two Weetabix plants
Unite memebrs are holding protests over proposed 'fire and rehire' plans at two Weetabix plants

Related tags: Strike action, Cereal

Protests over Weetabix’s plans to ‘fire and rehire’ staff at its Kettering and Corby factories have begun at supermarkets across the UK this week, led by trade union Unite.

Up to 80 workers, based at the company’s factories in Kettering and Corby, face changes to their shift and working patterns that would result in some engineers losing as much as £5,000 from their yearly earnings, according to Unite.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: Weetabix’s disgraceful fire and rehire attacks leave a nasty taste in the mouth. Shoppers will want to know that Weetabix has tainted its good name by attacking our members’ living standards while raking in massive profits.”

Plans that could potentially see workers out of pocket followed a healthy financial year for the cereal manufacturer, which reported a 5% growth in turnover to £325m and a 20% rise in profits to £82m during 2020.

‘Steamrolling staff’

“Weetabix believes it can steamroll a loyal and hardworking staff into accepting worse wages, pensions and conditions by threatening them with the sack,” ​Graham added.

“Weetabix’s management must be learning this kind of ‘take it or leave it’ industrial relations from their American owners – Unite won’t accept that.” 

Further protests are planned to be held in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland over the next week. In England, protests will be held in London, the East Midlands, South West, South East, North East and Yorkshire. 

A Weetabix spokesman said: “We are disappointed that Unite is arranging protests against Weetabix as part of its ‘End Fire and Rehire’ campaign.

‘Unfair and inaccurate’

“We have continuously asked the Union to stop using the ‘Fire and Rehire’ reference because it is unfair and inaccurate to compare the discussions we are having with our engineers to other disputes that require employees to sign new contracts or face dismissal; this is not something we are considering.

 “The changes we are proposing to our ways of working are necessary for us to stay competitive for the future, helping safeguard British jobs and deliver future shared success."

The protests followed strike action held by engineers at Weetabix’s Burton Latimer and Corby in Northamptonshire plants​ last month over new terms proposed by the manufacturer.

Meanwhile, strikes over pay at Wigan-based plastic manufacturer Alpa UK could lead to bottle shortages for drinks firms Coca-Cola and Britvic, warned Unite.

The first walk out took place on 21 October, with two further strikes planned for 3 November and 16 November, following a 90% vote in favour of action in a ballot with a 72.5% turnout.

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