US cereal giant denies threats to move jobs to Mexico

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Kellogg's has publicly addressed the strike by 1,400 workers at its RTE cereal plants in the US. Pic: Kellogg Company
Kellogg's has publicly addressed the strike by 1,400 workers at its RTE cereal plants in the US. Pic: Kellogg Company

Related tags Kellogg company Strike action Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers

Kellogg Company has responded to the workers strike, denying allegations by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) that it threatened to move production outside the US if it didn’t agree to proposals.

The Frost Flakes and Foot Loops maker has denied allegations that it proposed moving any cereal volume or jobs outside of the US​ during negotiations with the union, but noted it still has a responsibility to produce its cereals.

“We have a responsibility to our business, customers and consumers to run our plants, despite the strike,” ​said Kris Bahner, spokesperson for the Battle Creek-headquartered company.

“We are continuing operations with other resources and hope that we can reach an agreement soon.”

Workers at four of the cereal giant’s US Ready to Eat Cereal (RTEC) plants have been striking for the first time in 50 years in an attempt to force the company to end forced overtime work and stop it from redrawing the workers’ benefits scheme after the previous contract expired on 5 October.

Comprehensive offer

Kellogg claimed, however, that the union misrepresented its proposal to its workers.

“We are deeply concerned that the union at our four US cereal plants has decided to strike and what that means for our employees, and especially concerned that the union struck without allowing members to vote on our Oct. 1 offer,”​ said Bahner.

The company denied asking employees to give up health care, retirement benefits, and holiday and vacation pay, noting workers under are getting ‘industry-leading’ and ‘above-market’ pay and benefits.

It said the average 2020 earnings for the majority of its hourly RTEC employees was $120,000 and more than one-third earned between $120,000 and $200,000. Most also have unparalleled, no-cost comprehensive health insurance.

Topping this, it said the proposal offered wage increases for both legacy and transitional employees/new hires; an increase in straight time rates for maintenance employees; no changes to current health care plans, with new dental and vision benefits; and enhanced retirement benefits.

To the allegation that workers were forced to work 12-hour shifts seven days a week, Kellogg said that while employees worked an average of 52-56 hours/week in 2020, 90% of the time, employees volunteered for the extra hours. Nevertheless, the company proposed adding a fourth crew to enable more time off, but the union rejected any proposals that might change current work schedules.

Tentative agreement

The company’s 1 October proposal offered to give employees one week off with pay, returning to work on 12 October, and tentatively agreed to simplify the company’s stock purchase programme.

“We value all of our employees and recognise their efforts, especially during this global pandemic,” ​says Bahner.

She added that “Kellogg is ready, willing and able to continue negotiations at any time.”

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