JDE accused of 'corporate gangsterism'

Unite to escalate industrial action after dismissal notices for Banbury coffee workers over ‘fire and rehire’ plans

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The decision by JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) in Banbury to issue dismissal notices today (June 2) to workers refusing to sign new contracts, which could mean some of them losing up to £12,000 a year, has been branded ‘corporate gangsterism’ by Unite.

Unite said that it would be escalating industrial action with four new strike days at the Ruscote Avenue site after the company said those employees, who didn’t sign up by May 17 to the new contracts, will be issued with 12 weeks’ notice, effective from June 7.

The new strikes will run from 7am on Saturday (June 5) until 7am on Sunday (June 6); from 6am Thursday, June 10 until 7am Friday, June 11; from 7am Sunday, June 13 until 7am Monday June 14 and from 6am on Wednesday, June 16 until 7am Thursday, June 17.

Unite national officer for the food industry Joe Clarke said, “The company has today announced its notice to dismiss the entire workforce by using unscrupulous ‘fire and rehire’ tactics.

“This move comes on the back of an unprecedented level of commitment by our members throughout the Covid crisis keeping the nation supplied with coffee, as demand soared by an estimated 40 per cent,” he added.

“We can only describe the company’s greed-driven approach as a result of a culture of corporate gangsterism by this highly profitable Dutch-owned company,” Clarke continued.

“We will now escalate strike action in the weeks ahead until the company withdraws these notices and enters into constructive dialogue with Unite to chart a way forward that does not cause economic and social havoc to Banbury and the wider economy.

“We strongly dispute JDE’s claim that half of the affected workers will be £4,000 better off on average – we stand by our position that the new contracts could see some of our members lose up to £12,000 a year in pay – and, in some cases, their homes.”

Unite represents the 291 workers under threat and, so far, there has been a 72 hour strike and two 24 hour strikes, as well as a continuous over time ban that has been in place since May 1.

The union is running a national campaign to get the government to outlaw the practice, in line with other competitor countries, to give UK workers protection. A recent Survation poll for Unite found seven in 10 want the practice banned.

Unite assistant general secretary for politics and legal, Howard Beckett, said, “It’s quite clear that the public is firmly on the side of working people when it comes to the horrific practice of fire and rehire.

“There is no grey area here,” he added. “They see that this is an objectionable practice that should be banned. The government has to get on the same page as voters on this and fast.”

By Shaun Noble

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