UK and Irish labor union, Unite, said that its members at the feed firm were angry at the unilateral imposition of increased weekend working from one Saturday every four weeks to two Saturdays in four – with no pay rise.
The union said that a meeting is to be held later this month to plan for industrial action, after the drivers voted by 62% for strike action and by 87% for industrial action short of a strike.
Unite regional officer, Steve Harley, said ABN’s unilateral imposition is an attack on its members’ work/life balance and are also an erosion of continuous rest breaks, which are essential to the safety of all road users.
Reacting to developments, a spokesperson for ABN told FeedNavigator:
“ABN has been discussing a change to the shift pattern, allowable under the existing workplace agreement, for our drivers at our Bury St Edmunds feed mill for more than 12 months.
“This change is required to enable us to effectively meet the needs of our customers.
“Throughout the consultation, we have been open and fair to our employees and have worked hard to reach a resolution. Unfortunately, and despite our best efforts, we have not been able to reach an agreement and we are aware of the decision taken by some of our drivers to strike."
‘An unappetizing race to the bottom’
However, Unite’s Harley claims that what is happening at Bury St Edmunds is an "unappetizing race to the bottom".
“Working days can already exceed 12 hours a day. Therefore, weekends are essential to those who want a proper work/life balance and time to be with their families. This firm is making healthy profits but has adamantly refused to talk to Unite in a constructive fashion to resolve this issue.
“These new draconian Saturday rotas are already operating, hence the very real possibility of strikes in the run-up to Christmas, so we are calling, once more, for meaningful negotiations. Should the industrial action go ahead, we predict that it will directly impact on the availability of poultry and pig feed to business customers, particularly in Norfolk and Suffolk.”
ABN contingency plans
ABN is a manufacturer of compound animal feed for the UK pig and poultry industry. It has 11 feed mills spread across the UK, including the site at Bury, St Edmonds.
The company spokesperson told us that should industrial action be taken, it has contingency plans to ensure customer service and delivery standards are fully maintained. "Feed safety remains our priority.”