Greencore has called for talks with unions over its plans to restructure a loss-making site in UK amid a dispute that has seen the Irish food group accused of breaking employment law.

The Unite union has claimed Greencore has broken regulations at its plant in Hull by issuing notices to end contracts and re-employ workers on worse terms and conditions before the end of a period of consultation.

Staff have been threatened with redundancy and with being replaced with agency workers, Unite said. It claims Greencore is threatening to lay off 236 staff and employ agency workers to replace them.

Speaking to just-food, Greencore said it was "disappointed" at Unite's statement, which it said had "inflammed" the situation. A spokesperson said the company wants to negotiate on its plans in "a proper and correct manner".

The spokesperson said the threat of 236 redundancies had been "removed" and that the company is offering "alternative proposals", which includes the end of overtime, but maintains any increases in basic pay.

"This is day-to-day operating stuff. You put some proposals on the table and you have a negotiation, but for whatever reason they've chosen to take this rather inflammatory route. We still believe a negotiated settlement between ourselves and Unite would be the preferable outcome to this dispute."

The spokesperson said the Hull site has been "loss making" for some time and as a result, the company wants to restructure the way it works.

"The site has been under considerable financial challenges over the last couple of years. The cake market, for our peers as well, is a very challenging market. It's due to a number of issues, some of it is due to input prices, and also inflation, so these have all added pressure to the market."

He added the company has put forward "a number" of options for further consultation and negotiation but that Unite has shown "no willing to negotiate on any point".

"We're open to any reasonable suggestions Unite can offer to settle this dispute and really to create a framework that we can prosper within in the future."

The spokesperson said Greencore had approached Unite's regional officer and put forward a number of options but said it had not yet received a response.

"We have asked them what they want to negotiate on and the officer hasn't provide an answer. We're stuck in a way but you think you're in negotiation and then a statement like this comes out, it's not helpful. None of their proposals have been put to the workforce, there hasn't been a ballot in any shape or form, they appear to be doing this off their own back."

Unite did not return comment at the time of going to press.