Weetabix workers cancel ‘fire and rehire’ strike

Finance

Weetabix staff have suspended a strike due to start today, two weeks after accusing the breakfast business of an “opportunistic response” to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Roughly 80 engineers at its Northamptonshire sites had voted to strike every Wednesday until September, incensed by the company’s “fire and rehire” tactics.

The trade union Unite had claimed that Weetabix planned to cut shift allowances, leaving some employees out of pocket by £5000 a year.

The move was “especially galling” given the staff’s “pivotal role in keeping Weetabix’s plants operating during the worst of the pandemic,” it argued earlier this month.

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Weetabix has now said it will not make any changes to employees’ contracts until September, and is confident of a long-term agreement.

Unite regional officer Sean Kettle said that the strike was cancelled after “constructive talks” with the cereal giant.

“It is hoped that fresh negotiations will allow a deal to be reached that will be acceptable to our members,” he added.

However, the union warned that strikes could resume “later this summer or early this autumn” if the negotiations did not lead to a “satisfactory resolution”.

“We are pleased that tomorrow’s proposed strike has been suspended and are confident that we can reach a long-term agreement with our employees’ representatives,” a Weetabix spokesman said.

“A mutually agreeable solution on new ways of working will allow us to continue to invest in our people, plants, and products long into the future.”

The news comes after Labour MP Barry Gardiner launched a private member’s bill to outlaw “fire and rehire” tactics.

Writing in LabourList, he claimed Weetabix, Tesco and Sainsbury’s were taking profits “straight out of their workers’ wage packets”.

In February, Tesco lost a court battle with employees at its Livingston distribution centre, which blocked the Big 4 grocer from sacking staff and then re-engaging them on worse terms.

The case has now gone to the High Court.

In June, trade union Usdaw accused Sainsbury’s of forcing staff to accept pay cuts, which the supermarket said was an attempt to make its contracts “consistent”.

Finance

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