Union says JDE faces consumer backlash

06/04/2021

Unite says coffee factory owners face “reputational damage due to its high-handed tactics”

The Unite Union says JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) in Banbury faces “reputational damage due to its high-handed tactics” over the proposed changes to working conditions for employees.   Union members are currently voting on whether to take industrial action, with the option to strike, in response to the company’s stance in the so-called ‘fire and rehire’ dispute which affects 291 employees. The ballot closes on Thursday 15 April.

In a statement issued today Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, warned that the nation’s coffee drinkers needed to have confidence that the products – Tassimo, Kenco and L’OR Coffee – they were buying were produced by a firm with excellent ethical standards.

Unite national officer for the food industry Joe Clarke: “Britain’s loyal army of coffee drinkers needs to have confidence that the household names they purchase during their weekly supermarket shop are produced by a firm with a good reputation in the way it treats its staff.

“Unfortunately, at present, Jacobs Douwe Egberts falls well below that benchmark as this highly-profitable multinational plans to ‘fire and rehire’ its workforce during a global pandemic – this leaves a sour taste in the mouth. It is the dregs when it comes to employment relations.”

However JDE defended the company’s proposals.   A JDE UK spokesperson said: “We appreciate some associates may find the changes difficult but there is an overwhelming need to reset Banbury’s manufacturing operations so we are competitive.  We will compensate associates who are financially impacted, and the majority of associates will gain financially as a result of the latest proposed changes.   

 “We are disappointed that the union has decided to ballot for industrial action at this early stage when we are still in collective consultation. We continue to urge the union committee to constructively participate in the consultation process and have asked ACAS to help us both reach an agreement that benefits our associates and the business.”

Unite have accused the company of having ‘a simmering managerial toxic culture’ at the Ruscote Avenue site which employs a diverse workforce.   It said its claims stem from allegations of an incident at the 2019 Christmas party which Mr Clarke said “required attendance by our hard-pressed police”.

Mr Clarke added: “We believe that the callous ‘fire and rehire’ plans are another manifestation of this culture.

“Unite reiterates its call for constructive talks with the management on the plant’s future, before JDE suffers a consumer backlash and their products remain on the supermarket shelves because coffee lovers are angry at the treatment of these dedicated employees.”

In relation to the incident at the Christmas party a JDE UK spokesperson told Banbury FM: ‘We refute these allegations. We can confirm that an incident took place at a staff event on Friday 13 December 2019. Following a thorough joint investigation with the management team and union convener, the investigation was closed and the company’s disciplinary processes were acted upon.   

 “At JDE, we take a zero-tolerance approach to any behaviour that falls below our standards and values. We strongly believe in providing a safe working environment for all our employees.”


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