‘WE made Marks and Spencer their profits!’ said an angry Fenland Food worker fighting the closure of her factory and the loss of hundreds of jobs.
Two coachloads of Fenland Food workers travelled hundreds of miles to descend on Marks and Spencer’s flagship London store at Marble Arch on Thursday.
The Fenland site in Grantham, Lincolnshire, supplies ready made meals to the multi billion pound profit-making store which is squeezing suppliers to maximise profits.
Consequently, on the 13th May, managers announced plans to stop production at the site in August 2008, with the loss of 738 jobs.
The trade union representing the workforce said:
‘The GMB’s position is crystal clear: that the Grantham site is a viable operation, and all the workforce are seeking is the opportunity to prove this.
‘What have Marks and Spencer and Northern Foods got to lose?
‘The fact that Marks and Spencer think that GMB will roll over and acquiesce like a compliant puppy to have its belly tickled, was graphically demonstrated at Thursday’s peaceful demonstration that Fenland workers naturally blame M&S for the planned closure.’
Over a hundred members of the GMB trade union swamped the M&S store entrance wearing T-shirts that said: ‘Plan A – Save Jobs At Fenlands’ and ‘Fenland Foods – Not Just A Factory Closure, This Is An M&S Closure’.
The protesting workforce were accompanied by their families and friends and local members of the GMB to demand Marks and Spencer reinstate the contract with Fenland.
The powerful protest had an immediate effect on M&S management, forcing them to invite a delegation of workers and GMB officials inside the building for talks.
News Line spoke to one of the families that made the lengthy trip to London.
Rosalie Adam said she came down with her three daughters, their friends and other workers’ families to protest against and stop the closure.
‘I want Marks and Spencer to give Fenland a little more time to sort themselves out so they can save our jobs,’ said Rosalie, who has worked at Fenland for nearly five years, and has to travel 45 minutes to get to the factory for the night shift.
‘We are fighting so we can work and provide for our children. I have six kids, so I don’t have a choice but to fight for our jobs and stop the closure.
‘I have been in England for 20 years and have never claimed the dole. We have a mortgage and so we have got to work!
‘If the factory closes it will kill Grantham; it will kill the community. It is one of the main factories and there is little else in the area.’
When asked if there was a union official at hand, she pulled her sweatshirt top down to reveal the GMB logo on her T-Shirt and proudly stated: ‘I am the union!’
Rosalie’s youngest daughters at the protest, 10-year-old Christina and 8-year-old Georgina, said: ‘We came here to save our mum’s job and save all the other people’s jobs at Fenland.’
Their 16-year-old sister Katrina, and her two 16-year-old friends Chantelle Bray and Jemma Bates all expressed their anger at the way the workforce were being threatened with losing their livelihood after many years of hard graft.
‘As the younger ones, we have to support our mums and dads, as they have supported us by working hard in the factory,’ said Jemma.
‘And companies like M&S are now throwing that hard work back in their faces!
‘It is not fair on people who have to work night shifts and day shifts, and who pay their taxes just to give their families the best they can.
‘Some of them have worked for 20 years and now they are being told that they aren’t needed any more.’
The lively youth declared that it was important for youth to support the Fenland workers so that successive generations had decent jobs.
‘Young people need these proper jobs, with trade union rates of pay, for their future: that is why we are also here to protest against the factory closure,’ said Chantelle.
‘They are making it harder,’ Katrina said ‘for the younger generation to find proper jobs.
‘We are told that we need three GCSEs to get the perfect job; but, for us, the perfect job is working in the factory our mum works in which requires a lot of skill.’
All three teenagers vociferously agreed with Rosalie when she said: ‘We might be just workers – but we made M&S their profits and made them what they are today!’
Fenland’s parent company, Northern Foods, employs 11,000 people and has 22 operating sites in the UK and Ireland producing products such as Goodfellas Pizza and Fox’s biscuits; it also supplies Italian ready meals for Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.