Crunch talks are being held today in a bid to resolve the ‘fire and rehire’ dispute involving nearly 300 workers at Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE) in Banbury.

Talks between union Unite, under the guidance of conciliation service Acas, come as the union plans to ramp up strike action later this month following the decision by the Dutch-owned company to issue notice of dismissal and engagement for 291 employees.

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An already announced 24-hour strike will be held between 7am on Saturday and 7am on Sunday.

This will be followed by newly announced dates for a 24 hour strike on May 15 and then a 72-hour strike starting at 6am on May 26 until 7am on May 29.

A continuous overtime ban also started on May 1.

The JDE bosses are currently embroiled in a row that they are banning summer holidays for workers in a bid to thwart industrial action – already the site relies on overtime to keep production running smoothly.

The company also faces allegations that it used inducements of £750 to some workers so they would accept lower pay and inferior employment conditions.

The union is also seeking counsel on whether the company has breached the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) convention regarding the right to organise and to have collective bargaining processes in place.

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Unite is liaising with its European trade union counterparts on offers of solidarity, after March’s financial results reported ‘a record In-Home organic growth of 9.1 per cent in 2020’.

This increase was boosted by the coffee drinking boom in the UK, including JDE’s top brands such as Tassimo, Kenco and L’OR Coffee, during the pandemic.

Unite's national officer for the food industry Joe Clarke said: “We're going into tomorrow’s (today's) talks with JDE management in a constructive frame of mind, as we believe that no coherent business case has been made for these despicable ‘fire and rehire’ proposals.

“However, if this highly profitable firm digs its heels in, we have a programme of strike action in place for this month starting with a 24-hour strike on Saturday, as well as the continuous overtime ban which began on May 1.

“We believe that this industrial action will eventually cause severe disruption to production schedules and therefore hit the company where it hurts – on the bottom line which won’t amuse the global management.

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“The community has shown great support to our members and people are horrified by the dogmatic and hardline attitude of local bosses that could be a body blow to the regional economy. Some of our members could lose between £7,000 - £12,000-a-year which may mean some of them losing their homes.”

Unite has repeatedly raised the alarm over an outbreak of ‘fire and rehire’ disputes across the UK as unscrupulous employers look to exploit workers using Covid-19 as an excuse.

Unite's general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Fire and rehire' is ripping through our workplaces like a disease. Weak law lets bad bosses force through brutal changes to contracts, sometimes taking thousands of pounds off wages that families need to get by.

"It's a disgraceful practice that's outlawed in much of Europe and should be here.

"Unite is fighting for UK workers to be treated with the same decency.  We won't stop until the law is changed to protect working people from attack."

A JDE UK spokesperson said: “We look forward to meeting with Unite and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) today. We have clear areas of feedback from our associates to discuss on the latest proposals. We hope that we will be able to reach an agreement with Unite so that we can move forward.

“The union has notified us of a 24-hour strike on Saturday, May 8 and we are obviously disappointed that some associates might choose to participate but we respect their right to make their voices heard on the proposals.”

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