Workers at two Weetabix factories will launch four-day strikes from Monday in a dispute over pay and conditions.
Members of Unite at the company’s Kettering and Corby factories have been on strike every Tuesday and Wednesday since September over proposed changes to working practices that they claim could leave them up to £5,000 a year worse off.
The union claims engineers face cuts to their pay, terms and conditions, describing it as an example of a “fire and rehire” policy and Weetbix’s “corporate greed”, which the company denies.
In an escalation of the dispute, strikes are to take place every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
“Weetabix is making bumper profits, so there is no justification for these ‘fire and rehire’ attacks on our members’ wages and conditions,” Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said. “They are just not swallowing what in reality is a serving of corporate greed.
“Unite will not accept attacks on our members’ jobs, pay and conditions, and Weetabix should expect this dispute to continue escalating until fire and rehire is dropped.”
About 80 engineers have been taking part in the Tuesday and Wednesday strike action since September at the Weetabix Mills factory in Burton Latimer and at its plant on the Earlstrees industrial estate in Corby. The two factories also produce Alpen, Weetos and Oatibix.
Stuart Branch, the group people and IT director at Weetabix Food Company, said: “For 90 years we’ve maintained a strong and productive relationship with our workforce across Northamptonshire to create a world-leading cereal manufacturing capability. We’re concerned to see that our reputation is being damaged in service of Unite’s national campaign on ‘fire and rehire’, which is irrelevant to the current industrial action at Weetabix.
“We have repeatedly reassured our engineering team and their union representatives that no individual is at risk of dismissal, and that roles exist for all, thanks to our ongoing investment in our UK factories. The current discussions with our team focus on a request for compensation for a change in shift patterns.
“As these changes are permitted under their existing contracts, we will not be paying for them as it would be unfair to our other employees. We are extremely proud of the efforts of our 1,000-strong British workforce, and have paid two additional bonuses over the last year to reflect their hard work throughout the pandemic.”
The breakfast cereal, which accounts for 7% of UK cereal sales, was family owned until 2004, when it was bought by a Texas private equity firm. It was subsequently sold to China’s Bright Food before being sold again to the US company Post Holdings Inc for £1.4bn in 2017.
Weetabix is exported to more than 80 countries, employs almost 2,000 people and generates annual sales of more than £420m.
• This article was amended on 15 November 2021 to remove text stating that “Britons eat an average of 336 Weetabix a year” as the statistic could not be verified.