Brits are passionate about their biscuits, and Fox’s was recently identified as the UK’s third most nostalgic brand, with 55% of Brits stating the luxury brand is evocative of all things British.
So, a Christmas without their favourite biscuit brand is like, well, Batman without Robin or Romeo without Juliet.
But this is what Unite the Union is warning Brits to expect, as engineers at the company’s Batley factory gear up for four days of strike action beginning on 6 November, followed by a further four days from 14 November.
The last resort
According to Unite regional officer Chris Rawlinson said, this action is a last resort.
“The union has given the company every opportunity to make a fair pay offer but it has failed to do so,” he said.
“The strike action will inevitably result in production problems and product shortages in the run up to Christmas but this dispute is entirely of the company’s own making.”
Fox’s Biscuits is part of the multinational Ferrero Group, which most recently posted a 10% increase in UK & Ireland revenues to £450m.
The company has offered engineers a 5% pay increase, however, with the current inflation rate at 12.6%, the offer in reality is a real terms pay cut.
The engineers would have to accept moving from weekly to monthly pay, and their notice period would be extended from one week to three months.
The dispute involved 36 engineers and members of Unite, who play a critical role in ensuring that production lines are fully functioning and that output is not affected by breakdowns or malfunctioning equipment.
“Our members undertake a highly skilled role ensuring Fox’s production lines run smoothly and they are simply not going to accept a substantial real terms pay cut,” said United general secretary Sharon Graham.
In a statement, Unite said it had costed the total pay increase the engineers are seeking at just £140,000.
“This is a hugely wealthy company and settling our members’ pay claim would be an absolute drop in the ocean for it. This is a classic example of a company that can pay but is choosing not to,” said Graham.
Fox’s legacy began back in 1853 with a batch of brandy snaps baked by Michael Spedding at his Batley bakery.
The company was renamed F.E. Fox & Co after son-in-law Fred Ellis Fox took over the business in 1897, and finally Fox’s Biscuits, when it became a limited company in 1960. In October 2020, Ferrero bought Fox’s Biscuits for £246m. Today, Fox's Burton's Companies (FBC) UK is owned by Ferrero-related company.
Commented a FBC spokesperson, "All our colleagues at our Batley factory are a hugely valued part of our Fox’s Burton’s Companies (FBC) and we are working closely with our colleagues and their Union representatives to find a meaningful resolution. We would like to reassure our consumers and business partners that we do not anticipate any supply issues as a result of this situation.”