Weetabix shortage a possibility over summer amid ongoing row, union warns

Strike action could see shortage of the breakfast staple in shops

Ellie Abraham
Wednesday 26 May 2021 09:43
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Unions have warned about a possible Weetabix shortage this summer amid an ongoing dispute.

Engineers at the company’s factories in Kettering and Corby in Northamptonshire have threatened to strike next month.

The row is over pay and working conditions. If the walkout goes ahead, it could lead to a shortage of the product this summer as the production line stops.

Workers claim that Weetabix is trying to make them accept new contracts, which would see some lose up to £5,000 in wages per year. The company said it was consulting with workers about new ways of working.

The union Unite said engineers have been told to change their working patterns in the new contracts, resulting in fewer shifts. Additionally, more day working would result in lower pay.

It is feared Weetabix may use the fire and rehire practice – where companies offer redundancy to staff with the intention of rehiring them with less desirable contract terms.

Labour MP Kim Johnson said the “shameful and immoral” practice is “spreading through workplaces like a virus” during Prime Minister’s Questions last month.

Sean Kettle, Unite’s regional officer, said: “Our members play an essential role in keeping the Weetabix plants operating and to treat them in such an offhand manner in order to simply boost profits is disgraceful.

“The solution is in Weetabix’s hands. They need to withdraw the threat to fire and rehire our members and return to the negotiating table.”

A strike ballot opens on Thursday 27 May and ends on 3 June. If strike action is voted for, it will begin next month and could see shortages of Weetabix occur later in the year.

Mr Kettle said: “If a strike occurs it will undoubtedly disrupt the production of Weetabix and result in shortages in the shops.”

A spokesperson for Weetabix told The Independent: “For nearly 90 years we have worked hard at Weetabix to remain competitive in our marketplace, and we have a responsibility to all of our teams to continue to do so.

As part of our ongoing change programme, we have been in close consultation with our employees and their local Union representatives to implement new ways of working. 

“We are proud to have recognised the efforts of all of our teams in keeping our factories open throughout the challenges of the last year and we were very happy to be able to share two discretionary bonuses with our manufacturing teams during that time.”

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