Nearly 300 employees at the JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) site in Banbury, Oxfordshire, will start a continuous overtime ban from Saturday 1 May over ‘fire and rehire’ plans, Unite announced today (Friday 16 April).
And the union warned that the accumulative impact of the overtime ban, starting on 00.01 on 1 May, could lead to shortages of the nation’s favourite coffee brands, such as Tassimo, Kenco and L’OR Coffee, on supermarket shelves as the industrial action started to bite during May.
It is planned that the action will escalate to full-scale strike action in June, unless the management enters into constructive negotiations with the union.
Unite said its members had voted by an 87 per cent majority to strike over the decision by the Dutch-owned company to issue notice of dismissal and engagement for 291 employees.
“Our members have delivered an overwhelming mandate for strike action over the company’s deplorable plans to ‘fire and rehire’ nearly 300 of its dedicated employees,” commented Unite national Joe Clarke.
“Our members will start a continuous overtime ban from Saturday 1 May – appropriately International Workers’ Day – which we will ramp up to full-scale strike action in June.
“The overtime ban will lead to disruption to the smooth supply of the company’s top coffee products, such as Tassimo, Kenco and L’OR Coffee, to the nation’s supermarket shelves. Already sections of the Banbury plant rely on overtime to keep production running to schedule.
“Recent managerial actions have soured what were harmonious employment relations for half a century. We have already made public our concerns about what we call ‘a simmering managerial toxic culture’ at the Ruscote Avenue site.
“However, even at this eleventh hour, we call on the company’s top executives to enter into constructive talks with Unite to resolve the outstanding issues.”
The workers’ anger has also been fuelled by the recent financial results from the multi-national which reported ‘a record In-Home organic growth of 9.1 per cent in 2020’. This increase has been augmented by the boom in coffee drinking in the UK during the year-long pandemic.
Joe Clarke added, “During the 14 months of the pandemic, our members have worked flat-out to meet the estimated 40 per cent increase in coffee drinking by UK consumers – and Unite is not prepared to see this loyalty and hard work being repaid by pay cuts, and inferior terms and conditions.
“Jacobs Douwe Egberts is a highly-profitable multinational as the recent financial results demonstrate and it needs to reconsider its ‘fire and rehire’ plans, otherwise it will face severe reputational damage and cause investors to be worried about its share price,” concluded Clarke.
Unite has repeatedly raised the alarm over an outbreak of ‘fire and rehire’ disputes across the UK as unscrupulous employers look to exploit workers using Covid-19 as an excuse.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said, “Fire and rehire’ is ripping through our workplaces like a disease. Weak law lets bad bosses force through brutal changes to contracts, sometimes taking thousands of pounds off wages that families need to get by.
“It’s a disgraceful practice that’s outlawed in much of Europe and should be here.
“Unite is fighting for UK workers to be treated with the same decency. We won’t stop until the law is changed to protect working people from attack.”
By Shaun Noble