'Major job losses' could happen at Banbury's biggest employer say insiders

Jacobs Douwe Egberts factory where all staff have been given letters of dismissal with a view to new contracts being negotiated. Picture by GoogleJacobs Douwe Egberts factory where all staff have been given letters of dismissal with a view to new contracts being negotiated. Picture by Google
Jacobs Douwe Egberts factory where all staff have been given letters of dismissal with a view to new contracts being negotiated. Picture by Google | other
Staff at Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE), Banbury's largest employer, have been told to accept company changes or resign, the Banbury Guardian has been told.

Union bosses say letters sent to staff apparently announcing that contracts are to be forcibly changed are 'bully boy tactics'. And they are taking legal advice on the matter.

A source close to the factory - still known around Banbury by its former company names, General Foods and Kraft - said JDE's move could see major job losses with some employees with over 25 service at the Ruscote Avenue works being dismissed. The company employs around 300 workers.

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"The plant director Rob Williams has sent every employee a letter telling them to accept the changes or resign," the source said. "The company is trying to force out employees by making them accept changed contracts. Unite the Union is fighting tooth and nail to keep jobs and stop JDE breaking contractual laws."

JDE had a prepared statement when approached by the Banbury Guardian today (Thursday) saying change was necessary to ensure the company remained sustainable.

Union bosses say the company has served notice on the entire workforce for dismissal and re-engagement. A consultation will take place but it is understood no one outside management has any idea how workers' terms and conditions will be changed. However it is expected the contracts will be 'inferior'.

Joe Clarke, Unite the Union national officer, said: "What normally would happen is we would enter a consultation and negotiate to find to a position of agreement with the new contracts and try to implement them, if that's agreeable to the workforce. But they've issued the notification before starting the formal consultation with us.

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"We're supposed to be going into meaningful discussions but they are putting guns to heads before the consultation. We've seen no formal proposals and that's the concern here. There is an obligation for the company to consult in a meaningful way. So we will be entering notifications under duress.

"We're taking legal counsel as a first step as this is a breach of meaningful consultation. We are scheduled to have a meeting with the company next week and then we'll be formulating our response to the company.

"The Union is infuriated with the approach the company has taken. Staff are all in the dark about what the new conditions might be," said Mr Clarke.

"This is early stages; we're communicating with our members but giving consideration to taking legal action. The union is infuriated the workers treated abysmally - it is bully boy tactics."

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Rob Williams, plant director at JDE said in a statement: "We can confirm that we are considering making some changes to the way we work at Banbury. Many of our shift patterns and processes have not changed in decades which means some modernisation is essential if we are to ensure coffee manufacturing stays in Banbury for years to come.

"We are consulting with our factory employees and union committee on the changes. We recognise that change is difficult but this is a vital step to keep our Banbury factory sustainable and create jobs for local people into the future.

"The letter received by employees sets out the legal process as required and we have made it clear during plant briefings for all employees, that any changes are to be the subject of a full and thorough consultation with the union representatives."