Meat firm urged not to force through pay cuts

Union leaders are lobbying a meat firm calling on bosses not to force workers to accept what it describes as a pay cut.

The Transport & General Workers' Union will be lobbying at the gates of Bedfordshire-based Dawn Cardington today (Friday).

The T&G claimed workers in the meat firm's boning hall have been told to accept a pay cut of up to 20% by next week, or face losing their job, even though the group company is in profit.

Dawn Cardington is a division of Dawn Meats, and supplies many of the major supermarkets with red meat products.

T&G is inviting photographers, reporters and camera crews to join a group of the workers and a giant inflatable rat, for a photocall to urge Dawn Cardington "Don't rat on your workers!" at 3.30pm today (Friday).

The T&G said that wages are being driven down in a 'race to the bottom' on pay, and that many of the longer-standing employees who are on higher wages are concerned that they will be out of a job and replaced by newer, lower-waged staff.

Around 130 workers have signed a petition to urge the company to enter meaningful negotiations with the T&G, and the site's union representatives have said that although they were told of the cuts, there has not been proper consultation and negotiation.

Kevin Pass, T&G lead organiser, said: "Workers are paying the price for the company's drive to cut costs, with effectively an enforced pay cut.

"Telling them to accept by next week or find another job is like holding a gun to their heads.

"The company should withdraw their threat to the workforce and enter into meaningful consultation and negotiation with the workers' union, the T&G.

"The company has told the workforce that pay will be cut from its current levels of between £6 - £8, to the national minimum wage of £5.35 and £6.63. In reality most workers will be facing a substantial pay cut, some losing as much as £100 per week, with only eight or nine on the higher rate and the rest at the lower rate.

"The company has sent letters to over 70 workers in the boning hall telling them to accept the pay cut by Monday 16 April or they will be found 'alternative work', or their contract terminated."

The T&G said the chances of alternative work being found remain unlikely, and many workers could be out of a job. It said many other workers in the plant fear that if the boning hall workers have their pay cut, they could also face pay cuts. Dawn Cardington employs around 200 workers in total.

A spokeswoman for Dawn Meats said: "Following a number of meetings with elected employee representatives, the company is proposing to introduce a new pay system based on skills which is designed to reward the effort and contribution of the staff at the boning hall.

"The company has subsequently written to all staff outlining the basis of the new pay structure, which provided for a basic hourly rate of pay of at least the national minimum wage, together with a guaranteed production-related bonus, additional skill bonuses, and the introduction of a 'job and finish' system of work.

"The majority of the boning hall staff will either earn more or be paid comparable earnings to their existing level of pay under the new proposals. A number of employees have already accepted in writing this change to their terms and conditions of service."

"The company is also consulting with affected staff about the possibility of alternative employment outside of the boning hall at Cardington or at other Dawn sites."