Staff at a site owned by Premier Foods have been balloted on a pay offer concerning the next three years of wages.
Union leaders, however, are unhappy with the proposed rates – and are fighting for workers to vote against the offer.
Three-year pay deal
There may well be some food vacancies coming up at Charnwood Foods in Leicester, if staff are not able to come to a satisfactory agreement with their management. The Premier Foods-owned site is currently a place of some turmoil, as a three-year pay deal has been brought to ballot.
Charwood Foods produces pizza bases for a number of retail and foodservice customers, including the Pizza Hut chain. Staff there have been offered a deal which proposes a pay rise of 1% for 2017, a rise of 2% for 2018, and a rise of 2.5% for 2019.
This information comes courtesy of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers’ Union, or BFAWU, which represents 40 members at the factory. They are voting on the 15th March 2018 to decide whether to accept the deal or reject it. While the percentages do rise over time, those who are familiar with wage rises and the current going rate may realise that they reflect only the smallest of changes for the actual workers. When tax is brought into consideration, it may make only the smallest of difference.
Premier Foods are apparently hoping that the offer will be accepted, and even seem confident about it. A spokesperson said, “We are having constructive conversations with the BFAWU as part of our site pay discussions and we remain hopeful of reaching an amicable agreement.”
Strike action imminent
However, they are the only ones who remain optimistic. Lucasz Bemka is the regional organising secretary at BFAWU. He says that members are “disgruntled” by the offer, particularly because there are still uncertainties to deal with as Brexit approaches.
He pointed out that the site is one of the most profitable factories run by Premier Foods. As such, he is not happy to find that the offer would bring staff salaries to only just above the National Living Wage.
Bemka said, “This 1% is not going to cover inflation and locking them into a three-year deal is something we can’t accept. Once it is rejected and we have a mandate from members, we will organise a meeting between the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), the union and the company.”
If they are unable to reach an agreement soon, it is likely that those in food jobs with the company will consider strike action. There will need to be another ballot first, to see whether members of the union are comfortable with the idea of going on strike, and it will happen only if the union feels that discussions have been exhausted. While Bemka is happy to bring the fighting talk, it is likely that these verbal sparring matches are intended to serve only as a spur to get that beneficial agreement decided upon.
Premier Foods are currently enjoying a good sales period, with third-quarter results showing a rise of 4% in group sales for the 13 weeks ending 30th December 2017. That brought them to a total of £261.4 million. Sales were certainly boosted by recent partnerships with Nissin Foods Group and Mondelez International. This may be a factor in their decision, as the success could fuel room for
Premier have also been fighting the rumour mill – having to make a statement that they have no plans to sell the Bachelors soup brand to their key shareholder, Nissin Foods Holdings.