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Civil rights body seeks to end Kellogg Memphis lockout

By Kacey Culliney+

31-Jan-2014
Last updated the 31-Jan-2014 at 13:18 GMT

BCTGM workers and other Memphis residents held a rally on Martin Luther King day this month against Kellogg's lockout
BCTGM workers and other Memphis residents held a rally on Martin Luther King day this month against Kellogg's lockout

The National Action Network (NAN) has stepped in to try and end a three-month stalemate between Kellogg and more than 200 workers over casual labor contracts.

A total of 226 workers have been locked out from working at Kellogg’s Memphis ready-to-eat cereal production plant for just over three months – since October 22, 2013.

The lockout was prompted by rows with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union (BCTGM) over casual labor use at the plant. After 13 meetings between Kellogg and the union, Kellogg said it had no alternative but to issue a lockout until the union agreed to increase the use of casual workers at the plant .

More than three months on, the union and Kellogg remain in stalemate.

This week, civil rights organization the National Action Network (NAN) stepped in to try and bring an end to the dispute. Its Memphis Chapter president Gregory Grant wrote a letter to Kellogg CEO John Bryant that called for a resolution to be made by February 22.

He said that if by this date no significant progress had been made towards a resolution, NAN’s founder would start a national platform – a committee of multiple stakeholders – that will work to “expose Kellogg’s willingness to ignore the master agreement with BCTGM locals across the country”.

“The Kellogg’s Company gave its Memphis employees an ultimatum and now the city of Memphis is giving Kellogg’s an ultimatum. No matter what happens, just remember, the Kellogg’s Company picked this fight,” the letter read.

Kellogg concerned and wants negotiations to start

Kris Charles, vice president of global communications at Kellogg, said the company is concerned about the ongoing situation.

“We urge our employees to ask their union leaders to resume negotiations by providing the company written proposals and agreeing to set dates to resume bargaining,” she told BakeryandSnacks.com.

“Once we agree to a fair and competitive contract, we all can get back to the important business of keeping the Memphis plant moving forward.”

She added that the plant has continued to operate and service customers but that Kellogg would like to reach a resolution and have its employees back at work.

Casual labor would reduce costs in a tough cereal category

Kellogg wants union members to agree to use of non-union, part-time workers in the plant – a move it said was necessary because of difficult times in a tough cereal category. The cereal maker said use of more casual labor would reduce costs.

However, the BCTGM union suggested the company was “eating away at America’s middle-class” and was angry that its full-time employees would be replaced. Kellogg responded by stating that an agreement on casual labor would not threaten full-time positions.

The cereal major already made more than 60 job cuts at the plant last year as part of a restructuring plan .

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