Hopes deal can settle dispute at Carlisle food factory
Published at 09:06, Friday, 03 August 2012
Hope has emerged that a deal could be brokered to resolve a bitter dispute over changing factory workers’ terms and conditions.
An MP, councillor and union representative have held talks with management from Cavaghan & Gray in Carlisle in a bid to settle the row.
The ready meals factory’s owners, 2 Sisters Food Group, wants its 800 permanent staff to accept changes to over-time rates, sick pay, redundancy terms and bank-holiday working.
But the workforce last month rejected those proposals by two to one. The company, however, is threatening to impose new contracts.
Carlisle MP John Stevenson and Lee Sheriff, a city councillor for Harraby, were briefed on the situation during talks yesterday with bosses and Usdaw union representative Jayne Shotton.
Mr Stevenson said: “It was a good meeting. I think the important thing is to try to restore trust between management and the workforce, ensuring we secure jobs for the future.
“Most important in the negotiations ongoing, I think there is room for compromise. If the management could reach a compromise over the redundancy issue, I think a settlement could be reached.
“I am very supportive of the stance Jayne Shotton has taken.”
Mr Stevenson is optimistic that, despite the current issues, Cavaghan & Gray, a supplier to Marks & Spencer, can continue to be a major part of business in Carlisle under its new owners.
He added: “I would like to see investment in the factory and the management indicated that some could happen in the future.”
Carlisle City Council last month passed a resolution calling on 2 Sisters and the union Usdaw, to “negotiate in good faith to achieve a mutually-agreed and reasonable settlement”.
Miss Sheriff this week spoke of her concerns that the ongoing dispute was leaving families fearing for their livelihoods and that they were finding the stand-off with bosses “stressful”.
After yesterday’s talks, she said: “I’m quite confident now. I think the union and management will reach an agreement to the satisfaction of everybody. It seemed to me to be quite optimistic.
“They will enter further negotiations now and there was more of an understanding of each other’s position.
“My concern is for the people who work there and live in Harraby to make sure things are sorted out in the fairest and quickest way possible.”
The changes proposed would reduce sick pay, redundancy terms and overtime and bank holiday payments and restrict paid time off for hospital appointments.
The company also wants to scrap a good attendance bonus and an ill-health termination agreement, streamline the grievance procedure and move weekly-paid staff to monthly salaries.
West Bromwich-based 2 Sisters Food Group took control of Cavaghan & Gray 15 months ago following a £341 million buyout of previous owners Northern Foods.
Company spokesman Andrew Hanson said: “Some very large ready meal outlets have closed in recent years. Carlisle is viable, let’s be clear about that, but we want to make sure it remains viable.
“We’ve always said we have to get to a workable outcome and we want that.”
Mr Hanson refused to give a view on at what stage the two sides were in terms of negotiations.
Published by http://www.cumberlandnews.co.uk
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