Source: Alamy

GMB said workers had ‘overwhelmingly rejected’ new terms by a ‘considerable margin’

Workers at Pilgrim’s Food Masters sites in London have rejected new terms and conditions in what appears to be an escalating industrial dispute.

GMB, the trade union representing the staff, said workers at the JBS-owned business had “overwhelmingly rejected” new terms by a “considerable margin”.

The ballot comes in response to proposed changes to terms and conditions including shift patterns – an increase from eight to 12-hour shifts – and the removal of paid breaks.

The proposed changes involve factory workers at the Pilgrim’s Food Masters’ Noon site in west London (excluding its Spurway operation). 

“Low paid workers at the moment cannot afford to take any more hits because they have already lost everything,” said Gavin Davies, GMB London region senior officer.

The union explained that the workers could not ballot on strike action because there was a “no strike clause in the agreement”. But with no consensus on Pilgrim’s new terms, the dispute would now go to ACAS arbitration.

In response, a Pilgrim’s spokeswoman said its proposed changes would “standardise contracts across the Noon site, protect jobs and build a sustainable future for our business and our people”. 

“The external operating environment continues to be extremely challenging, so we believe these changes are necessary for the short and long term,” she added.

It comes shortly after the company announced in November plans to close its nearby Southall factory, which is set to lead to the loss of more than 200 jobs.

All 1,850 employees at the factory have been subject to a staff consultation, with the aim of redeploying most employees to Noon.

“These job losses will have a massive impact on our members, who have worked through the pandemic and ensured the company continued to produce ready meals for the nation,” said Davies at the time of the announcement.

In December, workers at the Spurway site moved to arbitration after GMB members rejected a pay offer that did not match counterparts in the Noon side of the business.

“The employer must understand how unhappy and anxious this is making our members working at the site,” Davies added.