300 staff at the Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE) coffee processing plant in Banbury, Oxfordshire, UK have been given notice, ‘to be sacked and rehired’. The notices apparently were issued without consultation in what the companies Union is calling a breach of the rules.
The Unite union said the coffee workers were put into a “Section 188” process, that meant workers could be dismissed and rehired on less pay.
According to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, Section 188: An employer who wants to dismiss as redundant 20 or more employees at one establishment within a period of 90 days or less must consult with appropriate representatives (recognised union or if there isn’t one, elected representatives).
The company said the procedure meant things could move forward “with a view to reaching agreement”.
Rob Williams, JDE’s plant director, said:
We have been proudly making coffee at Banbury for 55 years and want to continue to do so.
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.
The proposed changes do not include a reduction in headcount.
JDE, which makes Kenco Tassimo and Millicano at the plant, said proposed changes to shift patterns would make the company more competitive.
Negotiations took place last March but were interrupted by the national Covid lockdown.
Whilst JDE see’s this movement as a form of modernisation, on the opposition, Joe Clarke, Unite’s National officer for Unite (food and drink sector), said:
The union’s own proposals for shift patterns had been “dismissed offhand” by the company.
He continued to say that the workforce was “fired up“, and compared the JDE management to “corporate gangsters“.
Although business around the world have faced massive disruption from the global Covid pandemic, Unite pointed to a 40% increased demand for coffee during the pandemic.
JDE decided to announce these changes on the day we had 1,800 deaths recorded by Covid five weeks ago.
It’s no way to repay a workforce who have been working through this crisis under difficult circumstances.
Most food/drink sector companies are rewarding their employees… yet this one think it’s appropriate to give notice to dismiss and reengage the whole workforce on inferior terms as a thank you for their efforts.
He said workers were considering industrial action.