Weetabix workers threaten strike over fire and rehire wage cuts

·2 min read
Weetabix. (Photo by: Newscast/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Weetabix was acquired by Post Holdings in April 2017. Photo: Getty

Trade union Unite has said some 60 engineers at Weetabix’s Northamptonshire factories will strike at the end of this month to protest against the company’s ‘fire and rehire’ plans.

It said Weetabix wants to fire some of its staff at its factories factories in Kettering and Corby and then rehire them “on vastly inferior contracts." It has previously taken action against Heathrow and British Airways for the same reason.

According to the union, the company also wants to change their shifts and working patters which would mean some employees would be worse off by £5,000 ($6,877) a year.

The workers are planning a series of 48 hour strikes on 21 September, followed by strikes on the same day every week until 30 November.

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United warned the strikes will cause “widespread delays” to production and lead to shortages of Weetabix and other popular products made at the factories including Alpen, Weetos and Oatibix.

Strike action was originally scheduled for June but was postponed to allow for talks, which led to new proposals being put to the workers.

These were overwhelmingly rejected by 82% of employees, as per a ballot.

“We’re naturally disappointed by the result of the Unite ballot, but respect the voice of our workforce and their representatives," said a Weetabix spokesperson.

"We will remain in dialogue with them and are confident that we can avoid any product supply disruption while we implement the new ways of working necessary to keep us competitive," they said.

"It is unfair and inaccurate to compare this with other disputes that require new contracts to be signed or face dismissal, this is not a choice we're considering at present," they added.

Meanwhile, Unite pointed out that Weetabix has performed very strongly since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, as had US parent company Post Holdings (POST).

The Kettering-headquartered cereal brand was acquired by Post in April 2017 in a £1.4bn ($1.9bn) deal. Post posted an operating profit of $206m ($149m) for the third quarter of 2021, and a net loss of $54.3m.

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“It is deeply disappointing that despite Weetabix’s staggering wealth that it was not prepared to make an offer than our members could accept,” Unite regional officer Sean Kettle said.

“Consumers are bound to quickly lose their appetite for the product when they learn it is made by mistreated workers."

United said a recent poll found seven in 10 people want the practice of fire and rehire banned.

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