Feed firm workers gear up for strike action over increased weekend working
PUBLISHED: 14:31 01 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:31 01 October 2018
Poultry and pig farms across Suffolk and Norfolk could be hit as animal feed firm workers gear up for possible strike action in the run-up to Christmas, union leaders have warned.
Unite the union says action is on the cards over increased Saturday working for 18 transport drivers at ABN feed mill in Bury St Edmunds.
It criticised the “unilateral imposition” of increased weekend working from one Saturday every four weeks to two Saturdays in four – with no pay rise. A meeting will be held later this month to plan for industrial action, after drivers voted by 62% for strike action and by 87% for industrial action short of a strike.
It attacked the new rotas as “draconian” and ‘an undiluted attack on the work/life balance’ at the Eastern Way site.
Its regional officer Steve Harley warned if the industrial action goes ahead, it would directly impact on the availability of poultry and pig feed to business customers, particularly in Norfolk and Suffolk.
The imposition was “an erosion of continuous rest breaks, which are essential to the safety of all road users”, he said.
“What is happening at Bury St Edmunds is an unappetising race to the bottom. Working days can already exceed 12 hours a day. Therefore, weekends are essential to those who want a proper work/life balance and time to be with their families. This firm is making healthy profits but has adamantly refused to talk to Unite in a constructive fashion to resolve this issue.”
The union said it wanted “meaningful” talks about the rotas, but said there was a “very real” possibility of strikes leading up to Christmas.
A spokesperson from ABN said the firm had been “open and fair” to employees throughout its consultation on the shift pattern change, which was allowable under the existing Workplace Agreement. Talks had taked place for more than 12 months, and it had “worked hard” to reach a resolution. “Unfortunately, and despite our best efforts, we have not been able to reach an agreement and we are aware of the decision taken by some of our drivers to strike. We would like to reassure our customers that, should industrial action be taken, we have contingency plans to ensure customer service and delivery standards are fully maintained, and feed safety remains our priority.”