Kerry Group told just-food today that it was “astonished at this suggestion”, given that Unite is “not recognised on site”

Kerry Group told just-food today that it was “astonished at this suggestion”, given that Unite is “not recognised on site”

Kerry Group has told just-food that it is "astonished" at claims it is taking a "hardline anti-union stance" over potential job cuts at a UK facility.

The Ireland-based food maker begun talks on the future of its frozen ready-meals facility in the UK town of Grimsby earlier this month, which could be closed amid increased competition and declining sales in the sector. Some 337 jobs are under threat if the plant closes.

The Unite union has claimed Kerry has taken "a hardline anti-union stance in refusing to talk" to its members over the proposed job losses.

The union said it had written to Joy Wilkinson, the company's HR manager on Monday (6 February) to "clarify the situation".

"I am deeply concerned to hear a rumour that the company has taken the view that the local full-time officer will not be allowed to attend any meetings on site whatsoever. I trust that this is merely Chinese whispers," Unite regional officer Malcolm Hancock wrote.

Today, Hancock said he had yet to receive a reply to his letter. "This is a snub to the workforce, which is facing a bleak period with the UK jobless total at the highest it has been for a generation. It also shows a lack of respect to the Grimsby community generally," he said.

"Unite is keen to give maximum support to its members at this difficult time. However, Kerry Foods has refused to allow Unite to carry out its legitimate role as a trade union."

However, a spokesperson for Kerry told just-food that the company was "astonished" at Unite's comments, given that the union is "not recognised on site".

The spokesperson said: "We have 337 employees and very few of them are members of Unite. We operate through a works committee and we have been having consultations through this committee, which is made up of employee representatives across the site."  

He claimed "only a handful" of employees were members of the union. "We have not engaged in consultation with them. As has been said from the outset, we work through the work committee with our consultations."

Kerry acquired the Grimsby site last year when it bought UK rival Headland Foods. The company has already closed a second factory, in the Welsh town of Flint, that it acquired through the Headland deal. If closed, production at the site could transfer to Kerry's Carrick Macross facility in Ireland.