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One hundred workfare placements offered by union-busting company

By Rebecca Anderson

2 Sisters, a food-manufacturing company that has slowly been eating up the market over the course of the recession, has announced that it will be “training unemployed people to give them an idea of what it’s like to work in the food sector”. But of course these people won’t get paid – all they will get is a job interview if they complete the “training”.

This move by the company must leave a bitter taste in the mouths of 350 staff who were recently made redundant from 2 Sister’s factory in South Wigston. 2 Sisters has been buying up chilled food manufacturing companies then cutting staff, wages and redundancy pay for a number of years now and are one of the main companies responsible for the deterioration of pay and working conditions in Britain’s manufacturing sector. Originally they announced cuts to redundancy pay and 193 redundancies at the South Wigston factory but after workers there took four days of strike action the company increased the redundancies to 350 and closed the factory. At the same time, workers in their Carlisle factory suffered huge cuts to their overtime payments.

Staff have nicknamed the company “Twisted Sisters” and Sam Vickers of the Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union said:

They want to be a £3bn company but they are doing so by taking money from the workforce. Working people need to look around them and take stock of what is happening.”

The unions have pointed to the fact that the company is already turning a huge profit and last year its two owners paid themselves £12 million in bonuses off the backs of their staff.

Twisted Sisters also has a terrible health and safety record – last year they were fined £230,000 by the Health & Safety Executive after two workers suffered serious injuries. One of the accidents was a result of the business installing a “by-pass device” on a machine to override its safety controls. Just this year another worker was hospitalised with spinal injuries after becoming trapped in machinery.

The company’s decision to take on 100 unpaid staff has to be seen in the context of their overall aim to increase profits by driving down wages and conditions at their factories. If the company is allowed to go ahead with this scheme then it could threaten the livelihoods of existing staff as well as exploiting unemployed people who deserve real, paid jobs.

The unions BFAWU and USDAW should unite the workforce around demand that rather than unpaid temporary placements the company offers paid, the factory in South Wigston remains open with all staff guaranteed their job, and permanent posts are offered to all their 100 new staff. All jobs should be paid at the full rate.

We demand: cut the hours, not the jobs! If 2 Sisters claim not to be able to afford this, then they should open their books to workers’ inspection so they can see where the money has gone – £12 million bonuses, quarter of a million pound fines, and all. If the company truly cannot pay, then it should be taken into public ownership with no compensation to the bosses and placed under workers’ control.

The introduction of workfare into 2 Sisters is a further attack on the whole workforce and needs to be part of the fight to stop the company cutting pay and conditions. This union-busting company needs to be stopped in its tracks and the next strike against pay cuts or redundancies needs to involve all the factories and not just those sites being targeted at the time. Thousands work for 2 Sisters and together those workers have the power to take back the profits that have been stolen from their pockets and paid to the owners in huge bonuses.

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