Weetabix ‘fire and rehire’ protests go nationwide at supermarkets

Weetabix engineers have been striking two days a week

Monday, 25th October 2021, 4:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 2:57 pm

An industrial dispute that has led to walkouts by engineers from two factories, one in Burton Latimer and the other in Corby, has gone nationwide.

Protests against Burton Latimer-based Weetabix’s plans to launch ‘fire and rehire’ for its factory engineers will be held at supermarkets across the UK from today (Monday, October 25).

Union Unite, whose members at the company’s headquarters and Corby factories are striking over the plans, said supermarket shoppers should be aware of just how tarnished Weetabix’s reputation has become.

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Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Weetabix’s disgraceful fire and rehire attacks leave a nasty taste in the mouth. Shoppers will want to know that Weetabix has tainted its good name by attacking our members’ living standards while raking in massive profits.”

Over the next week, protests will be held in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In England protests will be held in London, the East Midlands, South West, South East, North East and Yorkshire.

Around 80 workers, based at the company’s factories in Kettering and Corby, face changes to their shift and working patterns that would result in some engineers losing as much as £5,000 from their yearly earnings.

Workers had previously called off a strike at a day's notice in June to allow for negotiations. New proposals were later put to the workers but were rejected by 82 per cent in a ballot, leading to more industrial action.

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Unite has continued its series of 48-hour strikes on the same day every week throughout the autumn with the final strike scheduled to begin on Tuesday, November 30.

Weetabix has performed very strongly since the beginning of the pandemic. In 2020, its turnover grew by five per cent to £325m and profits leapt by almost 20 per cent to £82 million.

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

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Weetabix believes it can steamroll a loyal and hardworking staff into accepting worse wages, pensions and conditions by threatening them with the sack. Weetabix’s management must be learning this kind of ‘take it or leave it’ industrial relations from their American owners. Unite won’t accept that.”

A spokesperson from the Weetabix Food Company said: "We are disappointed that Unite is arranging protests against Weetabix as part of its ‘End Fire and Rehire’ campaign.

“We have continuously asked the union to stop using the ‘Fire and Rehire’ reference because it is unfair and inaccurate to compare the discussions we are having with our engineers to other disputes that require employees to sign new contracts or face dismissal; this is not something we are considering.

“The changes we are proposing to our ways of working are necessary for us to stay competitive for the future, helping safeguard British jobs and deliver future shared success."