The GMB and Amicus unions, which represent Nestlé workers who are facing redundancy and wage cuts as the company scales back production at its factory in York, have claimed that the world’s largest food group failed to consult worker representatives about its plans – a breach of European Union employment rules.

The food industry giant announced last month that it is restructuring its UK confectionery business, a move that will see 645 job losses at the company’s Rowntree production facility in York as the site and the number of products manufactured there are streamlined.

The general secretary of IUF, Ron Oswald, has written to the UK and Swiss governments accusing Nestlé of violating OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises. In the letter, Oswald claimed that the company unilaterally withdrew from existing collective bargaining agreements. Nestlé stipulated that: “should agreement not be achieved, new terms and conditions will be applied via a process of termination and re-engagement”. 
Nestlé’s aim, the unions claim, was to put workers and union representatives under pressure to accept unfavourable terms and conditions designed to meet the company’s aim of reducing costs by 15%.  Amicus said that the company wanted to impose cuts of 30% to 40% in workers’ pay.

Tony Randerson, Amicus officer for Nestlé Rowntree in York, said: “Management have made clear that unless our remaining members accept significant cuts they face the same fate as their colleagues who have already lost their jobs.

“We are making clear to the company that although we will work with them to ensure the plant is viable and, if necessary, cost savings are made, eroding hard won and hard fought for pay and conditions and  threatening employees with the sack is not an acceptable way to operate.”

Oswald, of the GMB, added: “This amounts to a ‘take it or leave it’ offer made against a background of ongoing production transfers and the threat of further transfers, for example transferring the production of the entire line of Smartie products to Nestlé’s plant in Hamburg Germany.”

Both unions are meeting with government representatives in a bid to draw attention to their grievances.