Unite has highlighted “a culture of alleged beatings and bullying” as one reason for potential strike action

Unite has highlighted “a culture of alleged beatings and bullying” as one reason for potential strike action

UK food manufacturer 2 Sisters Food Group has said it is "very disappointed" workers at three of its facilities are to vote on strike action over pay, conditions and alleged "bullying".

Unite, the union representing the workers, this morning (3 December) said around 1,200 employees are being balloted for industrial action at three sites in the West Midlands, in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton.

Unite pointed to a "derisory" pay increase offer of GBP0.20 per hour, "unacceptable shift patterns" and management reneging on a promise to backdate any pay deal. The union also claimed there was "a culture of alleged beatings and bullying" at the plants. The ballot is expected to close on Friday.

Unite regional officer Des Quinn said: "There is also a very unpleasant culture at these plants, generated by a number of serious issues relating to alleged bullying and beatings."

A spokesperson for 2 Sisters said the company was "very disappointed" with the reaction of Unite, having only just started initial discussions with the union over pay.

He said the claim about "bullyings and beatings" was "a very serious allegation" and added the company had not been made aware of "any specific evidence" by Unite.

"This is the first we have heard via their press release and will be pressing them to provide evidence. Nevertheless, we take any comment of this nature extremely seriously and we have proper channels for such allegations, including an employee whistleblowing helpline, coffee shops and ethical audits, and would encourage Unite members and employees to use these if they have any evidence of this."

The spokesperson said 2 Sisters would continue to hold discussions with Unite. "The food industry remains challenging, as evidenced by recent events elsewhere in the industry. We will continue to consult on our proposals with unions and employee representatives, working together to ensure our sites can remain competitive for the future."

Unite's Quinn could not be reached for further information on whether the union had evidence of the "bullyings and beatings". However, Unite said and it members "stand fully square behind what we are alleging".

In October, 2 Sisters closed its loss-making RF Brookes plant in Leicestershire, with the loss of 229 jobs. A month earlier, workers at Cavaghan & Gray, a subsidiary of 2 Sisters, agreed a compromise over pay and working conditions following a dispute over reduced rates of sickness pay, redundancy, overtime and bank holiday working.