'Playing fast and loose with facts'

Unite blasts Weetabix claims ‘fire and rehire’ tactics irrelevant to current dispute

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Unite’s general secretary has said the union has “irrefutable evidence” that Weetabix is using ‘fire and rehire’ tactics to attack the wages and conditions of Unite engineers, including the threat of sackings.

Unite engineers at Weetabix factories in Kettering and Corby in Northamptonshire are currently taking strike action four days a week against company moves to attack their wages and terms and conditions.

The union estimates this could cost some engineers a loss of wages amounting to £5,000 a year. This despite the fact that last year Weetabix turnover grew by 5 per cent to £325 million and profits leapt by almost 20 per cent to £82 million.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham says, “These attacks are totally unjustified. They are a serving of corporate greed. And what’s more, although Weetabix deny it, we have irrefutable evidence that they are using ‘fire and rehire’ strategies.”

Earlier this week (November 8) a senior Weetabix director made a public statement alleging that the present dispute had nothing to do with ‘fire and rehire’. He said, “We’re concerned to see that our reputation is being damaged in service of Unite’s national campaign on ‘fire and rehire’, which is irrelevant to the current industrial action at Weetabix.”

Yet in company letters sent to Weetabix engineers in May this year, the Weetabix engineers’ manager explained the new contract offer unequivocally. He declared, “One of the options available to us, if your agreement cannot be reached is to terminate your current contract of employment and offer re-engagement on a new contract.”

Sharon Graham says, “So there we have it in black and white. Weetabix this week declare ‘fire and rehire’ strategies have nothing to do with the current dispute, when they are slap bang in the heart of the new contract letters originally sent to their own engineers. It seems Weetabix managers are playing fast and loose with the facts.”

The Weetabix declaration this week: “We have repeatedly reassured our engineering team and their union representatives that no individual is at risk of dismissal” is also flatly contradicted by the threat “to terminate your current contract’” made in the May letter.

Today (November 11) the arbitration service ACAS issued their findings on ‘fire and rehire’ tactics. They warned employers, “Our new advice is clear that fire and rehire is an extreme step that can seriously damage working relations and has significant legal risks for organisations.”

Unite’s Sharon Graham agrees. She says,“Weetabix management ought to take the advice offered by ACAS. Drop ‘fire and rehire’ and get back to the negotiating table with Unite to sort this dispute.”

By Ryan Fletcher

Pic by Mark Harvey

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