Workers at Weetabix factories in Kettering and Corby will step up strike action this week in an ongoing row over alleged ‘fire and rehire’ tactics.
Unite members at the company have already been staging strikes every Tuesday and Wednesday since September.
Workers claim that they face being dismissed and rehired on new contracts that will leave them up to £5,000 a year worse off.
Strikes were originally planned for June, but unions postponed them to negotiate with management. This led to new contract proposals, but these were rejected by 82% of members in a ballot.
Workers will now strike Monday to Thursday inclusive, a move that is likely to cause production delays and shortages of Weetabix cereal and other brands such as Alpen and Weetos.
In a statement, Stuart Branch, group people and IT director at Weetabix Food Company, said the company had become tangled in a campaign by Unite against ‘fire and rehire’ tactics, which he said were “irrelevant to the current industrial action at Weetabix”.
He said: “We have repeatedly reassured our engineering team and their union representatives that no individual is at risk of dismissal, and that roles exist for all thanks to our ongoing investment in our UK factories.
“The current discussions with our team focus on a request for compensation for a change in shift patterns. As these changes are permitted under their existing contracts we will not be paying for them as it would be unfair to our other employees.
“We are extremely proud of the efforts of our 1,000-strong British workforce, and have paid two additional bonuses over the last year to reflect their hard work throughout the pandemic.”
Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, said: “Weetabix is making bumper profits so there is no justification for these ‘fire and rehire’ attacks on our members’ wages and conditions. They are just not swallowing what in reality is a serving of corporate greed.
“Unite will not accept attacks on our members jobs, pay and conditions and Weetabix should expect this dispute to continue escalating until fire and rehire is dropped.”
She added that there would be protests at supermarkets across the UK to make shoppers aware that “Weetabix has tainted its good name by attacking our members’ living standards while raking in massive profits”.
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 seventy percent of people disagree with fire and rehire, a practice which leaves an especially bad taste in the mouth when it’s conducted by a company that bills itself as the ‘nation’s favourite’.”
Last month, a private members’ bill to discourage fire and rehire tactics, put forward by Labour MP Barry Gardiner was blocked by MPs.