72-hour strike starts at Banbury's JDE coffee plant

JDE employees have started a 72-hour strike at the Banbury coffee plant

Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 6:17 pm
JDE employees have started a 72-hour strike at the Banbury coffee plant (Banbury Guardian file image)

Around 300 JDE employees took strike action over the company’s plans to dismiss staff and force them to sign new contracts that would see them lose up to £12,000 a year.

The workers have conducted a continuous overtime ban since May 1, as well holding two 24 hour strikes and several demonstrations outside JDE’s Ruscote Avenue site in Banbury.

The severity of the industrial action has now increased, with a 72-hour strike which began at 6am on Wednesday May 26 and the looming prospect of more strikes over the summer.

Image for Banbury coffee plant from Wednesday morning May 26 (photo with permission from Banbury 300 Twitter)

Unite said that JDE ‘needs to wake up and smell the coffee over the damage its fire and rehire policy is causing.'

A JDE spokesperson issued the following statement regarding strike action: “The union has notified us of a 72-hour strike starting on Wednesday 26 May. We are obviously disappointed that some associates may choose to participate, but respect their right to do so. Our priority remains to keep the factory operating in a way that protects everyone’s health and safety and we are confident we can continue to supply our products.”

Even before the current round of strikes began, Unite estimated that the loss of production resulting from the dispute amounted to 600 tonnes of coffee, the equivalent of 300 million cups and equating to a financial loss of around £18 million.

Unite national officer for food, drink and agriculture, Joe Clarke, said: “Unite has put forward a number of proposals to JDE to de-escalate this dispute, including a commitment to modernisation and negotiations over working practices.

“Unfortunately, the company has not responded and is instead still fixated on dismissing and re-engaging our members on unbelievably inferior terms and conditions.

"This is clearly fire and rehire - and a disgraceful way to treat a loyal workforce who have given their all to this business.

“JDE has already suffered huge losses due to the strikes and overtime ban and that is before this current longer round of industrial action is taken into account.

“With the prospect of the strikes increasing in frequency and severity over the summer, more trouble is brewing for JDE.

“It needs to wake up and smell the coffee over the damage its fire and rehire policy is causing.

“Our members are standing strong with the strength of their union behind them and will not be moved until these grossly unfair contract changes are dropped.”

A JDE spokesperson issued the following statement in regard to ongoing talks this week: “We put forward proposals to the union that would enable us to work together with a view of de-escalating industrial action and reaching mutual agreement.

"Disappointingly, the union were unwilling to de-escalate industrial action this week to enable further negotiations. Therefore, we have no choice but to move forward to the next stage to provide clarity for our associates. As we’ve always said, we don’t propose these changes lightly, but strongly believe they are needed to secure a future for the factory in Banbury.”