Weetabix engineers to DOUBLE strike days as row escalates

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Industrial action will escalate from Monday, November 8

Strike action at Weetabix’s Burton Latimer and Corby factories will double from two days a week to four, trade union Unite has confirmed.

About 80 Weetabix engineers have been on strike every Tuesday and Wednesday since September over a 'fire and rehire' move which will see cuts to their pay, terms and conditions and will cost some workers more than £5,000 a year.

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From Monday, November 8, strikes will take place every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, increasing the strike action which has already closed production lines and put orders several days behind schedule, and will cause further disruption to Weetabix’s operations.

Weetabix workers and Unite members outside Weetabix HQ in Burton LatimerWeetabix workers and Unite members outside Weetabix HQ in Burton Latimer
Weetabix workers and Unite members outside Weetabix HQ in Burton Latimer

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Weetabix is making bumper profits so there is no justification for these ‘fire and rehire’ attacks on our members’ wages and conditions. They are just not swallowing what in reality is a serving of corporate greed.

“Unite will not accept attacks on our members' jobs, pay and conditions and Weetabix should expect this dispute to continue escalating until fire and rehire is dropped.”

As well as industrial action, protests at supermarkets across the UK have been held to raise awareness of Weetabix’s actions.Unite said the protests are necessary because shoppers will want to know that 'Weetabix has tainted its good name by attacking our members’ living standards while raking in massive profits'.

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Weetabix has performed strongly since the beginning of the pandemic. In 2020, its turnover grew by five per cent and profits leapt by almost 20 per cent to £82m.

Unite has campaigned against 'fire and rehire' tacticsUnite has campaigned against 'fire and rehire' tactics
Unite has campaigned against 'fire and rehire' tactics

The latest accounts of Weetabix’s parent company, Post Holdings Inc, the US cereal giant, show that in 2020 it had a turnover of $5.7 billion (£4.2 billion) and an operating profit of $701 million (£518 millon). Its cash reserves are $1.2 billion (£890 million).

Unite regional officer Sean Kettle said: “Our members' determination to fend off these unjustified pay grabs is rock solid, and Weetabix’s reputation will continue to be damaged until it withdraws them.

“Polling shows seventy per cent of people disagree with fire and rehire, a practice which leaves an especially bad taste in the mouth when its conducted by a company that bills itself as the ‘nation’s favourite’.”

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A spokesman for Weetabix said: "“We are sorry to see our engineering team on strike, but respect their right to do so. Over nearly 90 years we've built a strong relationship with our workforce, and to stay competitive for the next 90 years, we need to bring in necessary new ways of working.

“It is unfair and inaccurate to compare our discussions with our engineers over changes permitted within their existing contracts to other disputes that require new contracts to be signed or face dismissal; this is not something we're considering.

“This situation concerns the standardisation of existing shift patterns with our engineers and other manufacturing teams, which is permitted under their existing terms of employment. This will mean an increase in take-home pay for workers and, while the voluntary choice of moving to a working pattern during the day does not come with the same level of shift premium for obvious reasons, the proposal is very much in line with other similar businesses.

“We remain in close consultation with our engineers and their representatives and are confident that the opportunity still exists to find a resolution that creates future shared success.”