Banbury Workers Battle ‘Fire & Rehire’

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Striking bus workers in Manchester – furious at ‘fire and rehire’ are determined to smash it for ever

WORKERS at JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) in Banbury are ramping up pressure in the ‘fire and rehire’ struggle with a protest on Saturday (1 May), followed up with a 24-hour strike on 8/9 May.

Unite the union has already announced that a continuous overtime ban will start on 1 May because of the decision by the Dutch-owned company to issue notice of dismissal and engagement for 291 employees. More strikes are on the cards for June.

The demo, following strict Covid-19 protocols, will be held outside JDE’s Ruscote Avenue site, Banbury OX16 2QU from 10.30 on Saturday. The 24-hour strike will be held between 07:00 on Saturday 8 May and 07:00 on Sunday 9 May.

Increased pressure on the highly profitable firm comes as Unite launched a national campaign this week to end the ‘bully boy’ ‘fire and rehire’ tactics being used by a growing number of unscrupulous employers across the UK.

The JDE bosses are currently embroiled in a row that they are banning summer holidays for workers in a bid to thwart industrial action – already the site relies on overtime to keep production running smoothly.

The company also faces allegations that it used inducements of £750 to some workers so they would accept lower pay and inferior employment conditions – these claims have been referred by Unite to the conciliation service Acas.

Unite said that the company is trying to intimidate its members into signing contracts through aggressive one-to-one interviews and some workers, male and female, have been reduced to tears by bullying bosses.

The union has also notified the Health and Safety Executive over allegations that the company is preparing to use unskilled labour for work on ammonia pipes and boilers as part of contingency plans to undermine the forthcoming industrial action.

Unite national officer for the food industry Joe Clarke said: ‘We are ratcheting up the pressure on the management by holding this Covid-secure protest on Saturday and also staging a 24-hour strike in the first week of May.

‘There is real anger amongst our members and in the Oxfordshire community about the dogmatic and hardline attitude of the local management that could be a body blow to the regional economy.

‘We are not going to allow our hardworking members at this very profitable company to be steamrollered into accepting lower pay and inferior conditions, especially as they have worked flat-out during the pandemic to meet the soaring demand for coffee from UK consumers.

‘We won’t be giving into bully boy tactics, more reminiscent of the 1930s, that have seen some of our members reduced to tears following aggressive one-to-one interviews to get them to accept these new contracts.

‘If these contracts are allowed to be introduced, the substantial cut in pay could mean some of our members losing their homes as they will no longer be able to afford their mortgage or rent payments. Such a scenario would be a disgrace.

‘Unless the management enters into a constructive dialogue with Unite, mounting industrial action during the summer will hit the production of top coffee products, such as Tassimo, Kenco and L’OR Coffee.’

Unite has repeatedly raised the alarm over an outbreak of ‘fire and rehire’ disputes across the UK as unscrupulous employers look to exploit workers using Covid-19 as an excuse.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘Fire and rehire is ripping through our workplaces like a disease. Weak law lets bad bosses force through brutal changes to contracts, sometimes taking thousands of pounds off wages that families need to get by.

‘It’s a disgraceful practice that’s outlawed in much of Europe and should be here.’