In terms of money generated for the UK economy, the food and drink sector contributes nearly as much as the automotive and aerospace sectors put together and directly employs around 400,000 people! But for too long the sector, and more importantly the people that work within it, have not got the recognition they deserve. As a result, for the most part, food workers have been woefully underpaid and under-protected. Quite simply this situation is unacceptable and quite ridiculous when you think that without these workers there would be no food on our plates.
I’m therefore really happy to report back on a landmark new deal that we have helped secure for the people working at Warburtons. Warburtons, the largest bakery brand in the UK, has been around for over 140 years. But to ensure it is around for even longer, it recognised that it needed to modernise its terms and conditions - to make the business more flexible so that it was better able to meet the changing needs of its customers.
For our members, this represented a golden opportunity to demonstrate the value of food workers and to change the narrative of what it means to work in the UK food industry. It was also a brilliant example of working with a business that is prepared to not only listen to its people, but to also respond to their concerns.
After 3 years, the BFAWU, through the tireless work of our branch secretaries, has helped to secure a deal we can all be proud of – an increase in the base hourly rate, a simplification of how Warburtons’ people are paid and more stable shift patterns so that they can better plan their lives. The new terms and conditions will also give more variety to Warburtons’ workers as well as give them opportunities to learn new skills.
In fact, we thought the agreed deal was so good that we took the unprecedented decision to “very strongly recommend” it to our members before it went to the ballot. We were therefore delighted that, in November 2017, our members voted in favour of the proposals.
I’m so proud about what we’ve achieved, and would like to thank our branch secretaries for their hard work and our members for their patience throughout this process. I would also like to thank Warburtons’ management team for working with us to secure this historic deal. By putting its people at the heart of the business, Warburtons is leading the way and is showing the food and drinks industry how things should be done. We hope others follow Warburtons’ brilliant example.
Best thing since sliced bread? Perhaps not, but striking a deal that provides increased job security and improvements to people’s lives certainly comes close!
Ian Hodson (National President)