Kellogg has filed a lawsuit against some of its striking workers in the US, alleging intimidation of its staff.

The Special K and Corn Flakes maker has faced industrial action at four of its domestic cereal factories for almost six weeks after failing to reach an agreement on pay, health and retirement benefits. Negotiations between Kellogg and the staff union have taken place since 8 September, characterised by new ‘master labour contract’ proposals by the company and rejections by the workers’ representative.

Kellogg has lodged a suit in Omaha in Nebraska, claiming entrances to its plant in the city were blocked and working staff faced intimidation from employees on the picket line.

A spokesperson for Kellogg told Just Food: “We respect the right of employees to lawfully communicate their position in this matter. We sought a temporary restraining order to help ensure the safety of all individuals in the vicinity of the plant, including the picketers themselves.

“People safety is paramount to what we do. As Kellogg continues to conduct business at the plant, we are concerned about dangerous and unlawful behaviour, such as blocking plant access, threatening violence against individuals entering the plant and damaging property, to name a few.”

Starting their action on 5 October, some staff at the sites – located in Nebraska, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Tennessee – have argued Kellogg proposed “two tiers” of employment, wanted to remove benefits and move production lines to Mexico.
Kellogg has defended its employment packages and contested union claims about proposals to shift jobs outside the US.

Last week, it emerged talks between the two sides had broken down without a deal. The BCTGM union rejected Kellogg’s revised proposal – which the company insisted was its “last best final offer” and “addressed the union’s primary concerns”.

The Fruit Loops maker’s offer “expired” yesterday (11 November), with the company claiming the union did not allow a vote on the proposals.

In a statement, Kellogg said: “There are no further negotiations scheduled. We have a responsibility to our business, customers and consumers to produce cereal, despite the strike. Operations continue at all four plants with hourly and salaried employees and third-party resources producing food. We are also tapping our global manufacturing network and expertise, and we are currently hiring to fill roles at our plants.”

Asked to comment on the lawsuit and on the expiration of Kellogg’s most recent contract offer, the BCTGM provided a statement.

It read: “The company’s last, best and final offer does not achieve what our members are asking for; a predictable pathway to fully vested, fully benefitted employment for all employees with no concessions.

“Kellogg’s continues to insist on takeaways. The company came to the table insisting that there will only be an agreement if the union accepts the company proposal exactly as it has been written. The company’s proposal was filled with conditions and terms as to what was acceptable to Kellogg’s. These terms and conditions are unacceptable to our members.

“Therefore, the BCTGM Bargaining Committee rejected the proposal. The strike by 1,400 BCTGM Kellogg’s members at the company’s four US cereal plants continues.”