Banbury coffee plant workers vote for industrial action

Workers at Banbury coffee plant vote for industrial action from May 1 over ‘fire and rehire’ plans
The JDE factory in Ruscote Avenue, Banbury which employs nearly 300 peopleThe JDE factory in Ruscote Avenue, Banbury which employs nearly 300 people
The JDE factory in Ruscote Avenue, Banbury which employs nearly 300 people

Nearly 300 employees at the JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) - formerly Mondelez and Kraft - site in Banbury will start an overtime ban from Saturday May 1 over ‘fire and rehire’ plans, Unite Britain and Ireland’s largest union, announced today (Friday April 16).

The union has claimed the impact of the overtime ban could lead to shortages of coffee brands, such as Tassimo, Kenco and L’OR.

JDE UK contends the industrial action have no impact on coffee supply.

The JDE spokesperson added: “The union has notified us that there will be a continuous overtime ban from 1 May. We are prepared for industrial action and are confident there will be no impact on the supply of our products”

It is planned that the action will escalate to full-scale strike action in June, unless the management enters into what Unite describes as '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.

Unite national officer for the food industry Joe Clarke said: “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.

“Our members will start a continuous overtime ban from Saturday May 1 – 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.”

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.”

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."

A JDE UK spokesperson said: “We appreciate some associates may find the changes difficult and we respect their right to make their voices heard on the proposals. We are obviously disappointed that they have voted in favour of industrial action.

“Over the last few months, we have revised our proposals and the current proposals mean the majority of associates will gain financially and there is compensation for those who are financially impacted.

“We are now in individual consultation with our associates so they can assess what our current proposals will mean for them so they can decide the best way forward individually.

“We do not propose these changes lightly but there is an overwhelming need to reset Banbury manufacturing. We continue to ask the union to constructively participate in the process and have asked the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) to support us in reaching an agreement that benefits both our associates and the business.”