Unite will be holding crunch talks with the company – owned by Fox’s Biscuits and Matthew Walker Christmas pudding manufacturer 2 Sisters – later today to avoid industrial action short of a strike by workers planned for January 24.
Shaun Noble, Unite’s senior communications officer, told BakeryAndSnacks the situation relates to an ongoing dispute between Unite and The Pizza Factory from August last year.
On August 19, 2016, our sister publication Food Manufacture reported the East Midlands company was going to cut 350 jobs due to the loss of a Tesco contract to supply ready-made chilled own-label pizzas.
According to Unite’s recent statement, 280 employees of the company’s total workforce of 781 are facing redundancy from January 28.
“This is very bad news for the workers and their families, and a body blow for the wider Nottingham economy,” commented Unite regional officer Andy Shaw.
“The company has blamed Brexit and pressures from price-conscious supermarkets.”
The union, Britain and Ireland’s largest with over 1.4m members working across all sectors of the economy, has alleged the company is mishandling the situation.
At the beginning of the year, the pizza factory’s management told employees it was facing “an extremely challenging economic environment following Brexit.
“We are facing very significant commodity and utility inflation on top of the national living wage increases. At the same time, retailer competition is intensifying with growth harder to come by and value a key theme,” the company said.
Erosion of terms and conditions
Unite said today’s talks will focus on a doubling of the statutory redundancy pay for those losing their jobs as was agreed with the previous owners, Northern Foods and campaigning against an erosion of terms and conditions for the remaining workforce.
“Unite tabled an alternative plan to redundancy. The shift changes we proposed included short time working that would have spread the pain across the workforce as a whole,” said Shaw.
“This would have protected jobs in the short term until additional sales could be achieved. This was rejected without any real discussion or negotiation.
“What we want is a doubling of the statutory redundancy pay, as was in place when Northern Foods owned the plant, and for the current salami slicing of terms and conditions to be reversed.”
Unite has 489 members at The Pizza Factory, of which 77% voted for industrial action and 66% for strike action.
The Pizza Factory confirmed with BakeryAndSnacks that “132 union members out of 450 voted yesterday for overtime bans and a ‘work to rule’ that will start in a week’s time. 87 voted in favour.
“Following the announcement last year that our customer is moving to another supplier, we are still consulting with colleagues about this.
“No decisions have been made and we will continue to work closely with all parties to reach the best outcome possible,” the company told this site.
Once bitten, twice shy …
This is not the first time that the Pizza Factory has faced industrial action short of a strike from Unite members.
In May 2016, Unite released a statement that workers started voting on possible strike action in a dispute over an outstanding pay claim for 2015.