Engineers employed by Weetabix, and part of the union Unite, have launched a string of autumn strikes in a dispute over pay.
The first strike, based at the company’s factories in Northamptonshire, begins today and will last 48 hours.
Unite, the second largest trade union in the UK, has accused the cereal giant of planning a “fire and rehire” programme it claims will lose workers up to £5,000 a year in wages.
“Unite’s members at Weetabix will not accept being fired and rehired. Unite will fight to defend our members affected by this disgraceful practice,” Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said.
“It is abhorrent that it is legal for companies, like Weetabix, to issue ‘Fire and Rehire’ ultimatums to their staff.
“This is a totally unjustifiable assault on workers’ wages and conditions.”
Further 48-hour strikes are set to start on Tuesdays throughout the autumn, until the end of November.
A Weetabix spokesman said: “We are sorry to see our engineering team going on strike, but respect their right to do so. Over nearly 90 years we’ve built a strong relationship with our workforce, and to stay competitive for the next 90 years we need to bring in necessary new ways of working.
“It is unfair and inaccurate to compare this with other disputes that require new contracts to be signed or face dismissal; this is not a choice we’re considering at present. We remain in close consultation with our engineers and their representatives and are confident that the opportunity still exists to find a resolution that creates future shared success.
“We are not expecting to see any impact on our stock availability as a result of this or future strikes, due to robust planning and a resilient supply chain.”