Bernard Matthews workers 'left in the lurch'

Bernard Matthews breaks pledge and leaves essential workers stranded

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Hundreds of workers employed by Bernard Matthews, earning just the minimum wage, are up in arms over the company’s decision to more than double the price of its employee bus service and scrap a key route, leaving its workers in the lurch.

Due to poor transport networks, Bernard Matthews provided subsidised bus services which are crucial for workers travelling to and from its sites in Great Witchingham in Norfolk and Holton in Suffolk.

Unite has accused Bernard Matthews’ owner Ranjit Singh of reneging on a key pledge that workers say he personally made, after the multi-millionaire added the Turkey supplier to his food empire.

During a coffee shop meeting on Friday 22nd September 2016 Ranjit Singh, who is also the owner of Two Sisters Food Group as well as other businesses including Northern Foods and Harry Ramsdens, personally told workers that if the bus services got too expensive he would buy his own buses and employ his own drivers.

Instead bus fares increased from £3.50 a day to £6.00 a day with two weeks’ notice as of the 3rd of August, and all the bus routes to the Bernard Matthews factory to Great Witchingham will cease completely on 12 October. The remaining buses from the Holton site will go up again to £7 by September 2021.

For most, the alternative is a taxi at minimum of £20 pound one way. The nearest bus stop to the Bernard Matthew Great Witchingham site is a minimum 25 minute walk from the factory down an unlit road with no pavements and the earliest bus that gets to the site is 9am which would make workers late for their shift.

150 workers have signed a collective grievance calling on Ranjit Singh to honour his pledge.

Unite regional officer, Mark Jaina said,“Hundreds of essential food workers, earning the minimum wage are being forced to accept a huge hike in bus fares or leave their jobs. This is astonishingly irresponsible.

“The multimillionaire Ranjit Singh appears to have broken his pledge to keep buses affordable and running when he took over Bernard Matthews,” he added. “Hundreds of workers are urging Ranjit Singh to personally intervene.

“Low paid workers, essential to food production deserve to be treated better during the current health crisis. Bernard Matthews must meet with the union to resolve this situation urgently.”

By Ciaran Naidoo

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