Around 80 engineers from Weetabix’s Kettering and Corby factories have been on strike for two days a week since September over pay cuts and certain conditions that, Unite claims, will cost some workers more than £5,000 a year.
According to the UK union, this strike action will be increased to four days a week from 8 November.
Increasing the work stoppage – which already closed production lines and put orders several days behind schedule – will cause further disruption to Weetabix’s operations.
Unite is also hosting protests at supermarkets across the UK to raise awareness of Weetabix’s actions and let shoppers know that “Weetabix has tainted its good name by attacking our members’ living standards while raking in massive profits,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.
Weetabix posted a 5% increase in its 2020 turnover, driven primarily by the UK’s RTE cereal and muesli products, to £325m, while profits leapt by almost 20% to £82m.
While Weetabix's parent company, US cereal giant Post Holdings, posted flat sales for 2020, it brought in a turnover of $5.7bn (£4.2bn). Gross profit recorded a 0.1% drop to $1.7bn ($1.2bn), while operating profit was $701m (£518m). The company’s cash reserves are $1.2bn (£890 million).
“Weetabix is making bumper profits, so there is no justification for these ‘fire and rehire’ attacks on our members’ wages and conditions,” added Graham.
“They are just not swallowing what in reality is a serving of corporate greed.”
She warned that Unite will not accept attacks on its members’ jobs, pay and conditions, and Weetabix should expect this dispute to continue escalating until fire and rehire is dropped.
Reputation at risk
Unite regional officer Sean Kettle added, “Our members’ determination to fend off these unjustified pay grabs is rock solid, and Weetabix’s reputation will continue to be damaged until it withdraws them.
“Polling shows 70% of people disagree with fire and rehire, a practice that leaves an especially bad taste in the mouth when it’s conducted by a company that bills itself as the ‘nation’s favourite’.”