'Dismissal and re-engagement’ notices issued to workers at Banbury’s JDE coffee plant

‘Dismissal and re-engagement’ notices have been handed to workers at Banbury’s JDE coffee plant who have not signed up to new contracts.

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 10:14 am
Updated Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 11:08 am
Dismissal and re-engagement’ notices issued to workers at Banbury’s JDE coffee plant

As of Tuesday, those who did not sign up by May 17 will be issued a notice of 12 weeks which is effective from June 7.

JDE had issued 291 members of staff a Section 188 notice – known as ‘fire and rehire’ in a bid to make them accept new contracts.

For confidentiality reasons JDE will not say how many of those affected signed up to the new contracts by the May 17 deadline.

The new contracts affect work shifts and pensions. Unite the union says the new contracts offer ‘inferior’ terms and conditions, with some workers set to lose up to £12,000.

JDE says the £12,000 amount only applies to a handful of employees, with half of those affected being £4,000 better off under the new terms.

A JDE UK spokesperson said: “Over the past five months we have repeatedly tried to negotiate with the union on changes to working practices at our factory in Banbury

“They have been unwilling to discuss the terms of the proposals or provide any viable suggestions to modernise.

“As a result, we have been left with no choice but to issue notices of dismissal and re-engagement to those associates who have not voluntarily signed up to the new terms through individual consultation.

“We are very disappointed that it has come to this stage, but change is desperately needed to secure a future for the factory which is 20 to 40 per cent more expensive than other JDE factories in Europe.

“The changes involve bringing our shift patterns in line with industry best practice which we have benchmarked both internally and externally.

“We recognise the changes will mean some associates will be required to work new hours which will be a difficult adjustment for some.

“However, we believe our offer is fair as half of affected associates will be £4,000 better off on average and those who are financially impacted will receive compensation.

“We have also ensured that our remuneration offer will be above the industry average following the changes.

“The door has always been and remains open for negotiation.

“We ask all involved to consider the proposals to reach an agreement that secures a future for the factory.”

The row over the changes has led workers at the plant to vote for industrial action.

They have been working to an overtime ban, and have staged several strikes – the most recent being a three-day walk-out.

A 24-hour strike was planned by Unite for this Saturday. Following the notices being issued the union announced further strikes

The new strikes will run 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 on Thursday June 17.

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

Workers will automatically be rolled over onto the new contracts at the end of the 12 week notice period. Those not wanting to accept the new contracts will have to opt out and will lose their jobs.

A national campaign to outlaw use of ‘fire and rehire’ tactics is due to be launched on June 14 outside the coffee factory with Labour MP Barry Gardiner in attendance.