UK: 2 Sisters holds union talks after strike vote
Over 1,000 workers at 2 Sisters Food Group voted in favour of strike action last week
2 Sisters Food Group is meeting with union officials today (10 December) in a bid to avert strike action at the UK food group later this week.
Over 1,000 workers at 2 Sisters voted in favour of strike action on Friday after receiving what union officials described as a "paltry" pay offer.
Around 1,200 staff at two plants in the West Midlands are scheduled to hold three 24-hour stoppages, with the first set for Friday.
However, a spokesperson for the Unite union representing workers at the sites in Smethwick and Wolverhampton said officials were holding talks with 2 Sisters this afternoon. He refused to comment further.
Workers have voted for two walkouts on Tuesday 18 December and on Friday 21 December.
A spokesperson for 2 Sisters told just-food the company "will keep dialogue going", adding: "We don't want the strikes and we don't believe deep down employees want the strikes so we will work very hard to avert strike action."
The spokesperson pointed out around 50% of its employees across the two sites "did not vote or take part" in the ballot and defended the group's offer.
"We are offering an above-inflation pay rise, we have also revised some of the terms of our offer (eg no parking charges, backdating a pay increase to August) and we are looking to create 500 additional jobs to provide job security at these sites," the spokesperson told just-food. "But we can only do this if we can move to working five in seven days to meet the increased demand from our customers."
Unite have pointed to a "derisory" offer of an increase of GBP0.20 per hour, "unacceptable shift patterns" and management reneging on a promise to backdate any pay deal. The union also claim there was "a culture of alleged beatings and bullying" at the plants.
The 2 Sisters spokesperson told just-food the company will obtain supplies from its other sites in order for there to be no impact on customer supply. "The sites will still be operating but we will have a contingency [plan] in place."
"If a strike goes ahead, we'll still be able to supply the needs of our customers from other sites and we'll remain open for business and encourage our employees to come to work as normal."
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.
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