Bakers union has recipe for success at Pennine Foods

Pennine Foods in Sheffield has been working with the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) to support English learners – and the joint working is proving a recipe for success with 27 learner completions recently.

learners with Paul Howell General Manager of Pennine Foods and Ronnie Draper BFAWU General Secretary. 

To recognise all the hard work learners put in the union and the company, which is part of the 2 Sisters Food Group, held two celebration days where the learners were awarded their certificates. 

The success of this site comes from the support from BFAWU reps, Chesterfield College and the company management. The union said that the support for release from the company has been outstanding and the learners are given a 100% paid release to attend classes. 

The event was attended by Ronnie Draper, BFAWU General Secretary, Ian Hodson, BFAWU National President and Paul Howell, General Manager at Pennine Foods. 

Ronnie said that he: 

Enjoyed a great day at Pennine Foods presenting certificates of achievement to all the learners. You can cut the enthusiasm of learners, ULR’s, provider, the company representatives and union officials with a knife. So proud of you all, what you have achieved and the collective benefits you will bring too many in the future. Thank you all” 

Ian added that: 

It was a pleasure to attend and meet some of the learners. Learning is something that never stops whether the learning is for work or for personal development and completion of any form of learning is an achievement that enhances our lives.”

The opportunities that so many are now talking up in many cases is due to the development of trained learning representatives, enabling people to access learning to improve their lives is an incredible gift that one person can give to another and that’s what our learning representatives are doing at Pennine and across the country.”

Attending these classes has had an effect on everyone in some way, one gentleman in particular the classes has helped him dramatically at work. 

Thirumeni Thambirasan, also known as John Cena, by his work friends moved over to England from Sri Lanka. 

His first job in England was here at Pennine Foods working as an operative within the chilled department. He has always been extremely hard working found communicating in English a bit of a struggle. 

BFAWU Project Worker Lisa Greenwood said: 

At Pennine we offer the opportunity to attend English classes which are provided on site. His supervisor encouraged him to join and he approached me for advice.”

Now he has achieved a qualification he is now more confident using the English Language and now he is responsible for his own area and is confident enough to train new team members and using our online computer system Sap.”

Because of how much he has progressed he is now a stand in team leader which greater responsibility. This shows the hard work and commitment he has put in to attending class and achieving a qualification in English.

Lisa added that: 

He really appreciates the opportunity at Pennine Foods for supporting his learning with our union learning services. His supervisor is extremely proud of how far he’s come on his learning journey, he’s a real success and we look forward to helping him achieve his next qualification.”

Rachel Vine Lead ULR at Pennine Foods said this wasn't the end: 

Learning hasn’t stopped there. In mid November the next group of learners will start with two classes a day. This again is fully supported by the company and a massive thank you to them as this shows the company is investing in their staff.”

BFAWU Statement on Universal Credit

Universal Credit is class war perpetrated by a cabinet of millionaires against those struggling to get by in our communities. It is being sold as the most important change in social security for 30 years as it will bring together most of the means tested benefits alongside tax credits for people of a working age.

It’s the Tory government‘s stock answer to any question about poverty in the UK, and especially when referencing the legally binding targets set out in Child Poverty Act 2010 and how they will be achieved. Yet consistently the poverty reducing aspect continues to be revised downwards.

At the start of the process the Tories and Fib Dems claimed 350,000 children and 500,000 working age adults could be moved out of poverty.

The BFAWU demands that Universal Credit is stopped and scrapped,

Key points. 

  1. Universal Credit must be stopped and scrapped. 
  2. Universal Credit will be impossible to implement with casual and zero hour contract workers. Forcing precarious workers to either choose not to access benefits or to not work. 
  3. Hardship in terms of fuel poverty. Evictions and food poverty will increase massively among people already suffering with hardship. 
  4. Charities will be gagged to hide the figures. 
  5. The effect on the financial autonomy of women. Will increase the risk of domestic violence. 
  6. People who are computer illiterate will suffer disproportionately.

Tory Ministers are well aware that there have been warnings and campaigns from disabled people's organisations, from foodbanks and charities alike for the last several years.

The BFAWU are proud to be working with our Comrades in DPAC who have produced a number of well researched articles on Universal Credit, including by the late activist Debbie Jolly, who warned of its effects as far back as 2010. We agree with their findings this hideous attack on our class must be stopped and Universal credit must be scrapped.

The welfare state was created to deal with the eradication of want, ignorance, idleness, disease and squalor the Tories have always opposed its creation and Universal credit is the Tory destruction of the system that was designed to support all people at their time of need. Universal credit is not constructed to support but demonise and punish those that use its rollout is causing real hardship and has led to some taking their own lives. This itself should be reason enough to reconsider but so ideological attached and uncaring it won’t flinch in forcing our country back to a time when poverty was the norm and charity was the only system of support.

Some of the many hidden cuts to benefits have been highlighted recently in the press.

We know Esther McVey accused Labour of peddling "fake news" at Tory Party Conference in reference to cuts to tax credits. Equally we know that on October 11th during a TV interview that the minister admitted yes some people WILL be worse off. We know that the average amount people stand to lose due to tax credit cuts is in excess of £2400.

Other hidden cuts haven't had such exposure, no longer can two severely disabled people who live together as a couple who each receive currently the severe disability premium, under UC only one can claim for Severely Disabled Premium per household. This is a loss of approx. £30 per week for those households, money that is essential for carers pay and cost of support/mobility devices and adaptations to the home.

A disabled parent with a disabled child claiming disability elements of UC, will also be worse off again this a loss of approx. £30 per week per household, yet that parent is still a carer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to their disabled child.

We know that claimant conditionality agreements are compulsory meaning you have no choice and no right to complain what sort of government forces people to sign a form of NDA only one that has something to hide.

Many of our members and other low paid workers who are on the hated zero hours contracts will also are impacted by the changes.

These workers have to apply for and evidence application for other job roles that would take their weekly hours up to 35 hours a week. Yet many workers on zero hours contracts also have precarious, unpredictably fluctuating hours each week. Often with very little notice of shifts, and are at risk of losing their jobs if found to be applying for work elsewhere. 

In a continuation of demonstration of how cruel reforms to welfare are, a worker who loses their job cannot immediately apply for means tested benefits, and with the added minimum wait of 5 weeks for initial payment under UC changes, people are plunged into poverty, if not made completely destitute.

We know that there is a sharp rise in: 

  • the amount of rent arrears in areas where UC has been fully rolled out,
  • the number of evictions, 
  • the number of homeless people, 
  • a stark rise in foodbank usages,
  • the number of children placed on at risk register,
  • the number of medical cases of life threatening malnutrition such as feeders syndrome - a condition normally seen in famine struck areas, 
  • cases of mental health crisis,
  • and a rise in cases of benefits related suicide.

We know that the introduction of the two-child rule has resulted in a rise in cases of pregnant women being attacked by their partners. Media reports have suggested beaten in order to induce miscarriage.

And we know that the loss of financial autonomy for women in male/female couples means that many victims of domestic abuse are trapped in unimaginably dangerous situations, with no means of escape.

We know that the fact that the new system is entirely online means that people who are not computer literate, who have various disabilities, or who have no online access are not only struggling to access the Universal credit application but are also missing out on being able to access it at all, which results in people's payments being stopped altogether.

We know that charities such as the Citizens Advice Bureau dealing with complaints appeals and supporting applicants have been gagged from reporting figures. Unable to publicly disclose the volume of or nature of claimants cases and the effects of them.

We'll never know the true number of people negatively affected due to UC, but we know that the current estimated figure of £24 million of rent arrears in Britain is indicative of the seriousness of its impact.

For all of these reasons and more we reject the notion that Universal Credit can be fixed.

We reject the suggestion that there is any place in the policies of a socialist Labour government for a system that directly and purposely causes abject poverty, suffering, destitution and death of our class.

Whether people are in low paid job roles, are unemployed, or are unable to work at all, Working class women, men and children deserve to be supported in their time of need, not punished for circumstances that are beyond their control.

Wages don't increase with the cost of living, benefits rates are going in reverse, there can only be one result if we don't unite to fight this most malicious attack on our class in living history; 

The working class will turn its collective back on the Trade Union and Labour Movement in response to us having done the same to them.

STOP and SCRAP Universal Credit.


Wetherspoons, McDonalds And TGI Friday's Workers Team Up To Take On The Fat Cats!

On October 4th, BFAWU members working at Wetherspoons, McDonalds and TGI Friday's will come together to take action against exploitation and the nature of precarious employment that they face every single day at the hands of extremely wealthy and successful companies. Deliveroo and Uber Eats  couriers will also be taking strike action on the same day.

The BFAWU's Fast-Food Rights campaign has rightly helped to embolden these workers, who have now decided that enough is enough. We ask that all BFAWU members, activists and members of the public alike show their solidarity to these brave workers, who ask for nothing more than a proper contract of employment, a fair wage and Trade Union recognition.

BFAWU Executive Council member Jim Carlin has written an article for the Morning Star in relation to this groundbreaking action.

You can read it here

BFAWU Green Strategy

We are trying to improve the impact that your employer has on the environment.
We need YOUR views to help us!
Please take a few minutes to download and complete the attached survey and return it to or your branch secretary/regional office as soon as possible.

Thank you.

We’ve got beef with McDonald’s – if you’ve been #McBurned, speak up

Last year, we successfully organised a series of UK-wide #McStrikes in response to McDonald’s record of offering low wages and zero hour contracts. This gained national attention and our ongoing Fast Food Rights campaign continues to turn up the heat on fast food giants who are letting poor terms and conditions and inadequate workplace safety measures become the status quo.

As part of our organising work with members, we identified a genuine risk to McDonald’s workers of suffering avoidable burns injuries, and wanted to help them to take action.

We want workers to know that burns are not, and should never be, ‘part and parcel’ of the job. That’s why we’ve launched the new McBurned campaign with Thompsons Solicitors.

If you have been burned while working at McDonald’s, we’re encouraging you to speak up – confidentially - and to consider making a personal injury claim. You can read more about the campaign in this factsheet.

Ian Hodson, National President of the BFAWU said: “Members working in the fast food industry have increasingly been raising concerns about workplace burns and we’re taking the issue seriously with support from Thompsons Solicitors.

“We will not stand by while our members get #McBurned. We’re backing this campaign as a way for workers to come forward for legal advice, to help us as a union identify accident hotspots and to provide support to those who have been quite literally burned by McDonald’s’ disregard for their safety.”

The Weather's Great, But Don't Put Yourselves At Risk!

Whilst it’s fantastic to have some sustained nice weather in the UK for a change, we need to consider those who work across the food sector and the implications relating to the work they do, which will no doubt include a significant amount of discomfort and risk.

Bakeries, kitchens and other food manufacturing areas can become almost unbearable during the summer and employers should ensure that their workers are protected, even if it means implementing some special measures during this period of extremely hot weather. The following should be able to assist our Safety Representatives in the workplace.

These other links (including our 'Cool It' survey) are also useful:

The BFAWU has always argued that Representatives and companies should work together in their Safety Committees and plan well in advance how they are going to deal with the hot weather when it arrives. That way, businesses can continue to function properly and workers won't have to be put at risk.

Please stay safe.




BFAWU Environmental Strategy

After being responsible for successfully moving a motion around climate change at the TUC in 2017, calling amongst other things for a just transition to a renewable energy industry, energy democracy and recognition of environmental reps, the BFAWU has been working away in the background to develop our environmental strategy.

We are working on adapting the current Health and Safety Reps role to include an environmental aspect – transitioning into safety, health and environment reps (SHE) and we have published a new newsletter, Green Stuff, which will be published every 3 months. It will be available to download here on the website and also from the Facebook page @BFAWUGreenstuff and Twitter page @BFAWUS which will also contain regular updates on what’s happening

If you have anything to go into the newsletter, any feedback, or just want to know more, please email sarah.woolley@bfawu with the subject "green stuff".

BFAWU Response to Michael Gove's Food Industry Jobs-Grab!

Michael Gove has been an influential figure in the Conservative Party for a good while, now. He’s been in and around the government in various guises since 2010 (education, justice, environment) and has a number of connections, including Rupert Murdoch and the Henry Jackson Society. Despite a bungled attempt to become Prime Minister after David Cameron did a runner following the EU Referendum in 2016, he is likely to remain among the main contenders to take over from the increasingly powerless Theresa May, should she eventually run out of road.

Unfortunately for the people we represent in the food industry, Mr Gove is using his current role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to make the case for automation, at the expense of jobs. In a wide-ranging speech at the Oxford Farming Conference, which began on January 3rd 2018, Gove outlined his belief that food and drink manufacturers should move towards automated production systems, rather than relying on “low-cost migrant workers”. He told “We want to ensure that people recognise you cannot rely on importing an endless supply of cheap labour in order to maintain a competitive edge”.

Firstly, it’s curious that Michael Gove should immediately focus on the migrant element of labour involved in the food industry. Food manufacture is one of the UK’s most profitable and yet, sadly exploited industries in terms of workers, who themselves come from all walks of life and aren’t simply ‘imported migrants’. The BFAWU has long argued that food workers play an essential part in the success of the UK economy and should be properly rewarded for their efforts. We believe that trained, well paid, motivated workforces keep businesses successful and profitable, whilst keeping staff turnover to a minimum, thus protecting their skills-base. Indeed, only recently Warburtons worked with the BFAWU to secure a package for their employees that invested significantly in their terms and conditions, skills and quality of life. This investment in people, rather than automation won’t make Warburtons less competitive; in fact it will more than likely strengthen their status as the UK’s market leader in bread.

We should know by now what happens when workers are poorly paid, poorly trained and are deterred from joining Trade Unions; greedy bosses cut corners, the quality of food and hygiene standards fall and workers are exploited. We need strict regulations and control of the food industry, which protects workers, retains skills in the labour market and ensures top quality products for customers and consumers. The UK food industry deserves workers who are trained to the highest standards and paid properly, not robots knocking out cheap products in a soulless, de-regulated system, just to satisfy CEOs and share-holders.

What concerns the BFAWU and its members about Gove’s sudden dash for automation, is the threat he now carries to countless jobs across the country. In his Oxford Farming Conference speech, he demonstrated a total lack of understanding of our industry and showed complete contempt for those who work in it. His strategy for economic growth, competition, investment and profitability in UK manufacturing amounts to nothing other than a ‘Final Solution’ for the people we represent in a vital industry.

Since 2010, the Conservatives have proven themselves to be the champions of zero hour contracts, job insecurity and low pay. Rather than put forward meaningful and credible strategies to create job opportunities, invest in skills and improve pay in food manufacture, they have decided to pursue an agenda that fails both workers, their families and the industry as a whole. This is nothing other than a jobs-grab and Michael Gove has officially put all UK food industry workers on notice. It’s now down to those that work within it to respond; and he can be damned sure that they will.

Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)

Samsung and McDonalds Among Multi-Nationals That Flout Human Rights

The right to join a trade union and the right to collective bargaining are basic, human rights recognised by the UN International Labour Organisation.

Yet many well-known multi-national companies do NOT recognise trade unions, and do not negotiate with trade unions on pay and working conditions.

The International and European Trade Union Confederations (ITUC and ETUC) are joining forces for Human Rights Day (December 10) to name and shame two multi-national brands and household names that refuse to negotiate with trade unions.

The ITUC & ETUC today name and shame

Samsung - has a no-union policy in its factories and workplaces, and intervenes to prevent the formation of unions at its suppliers. Samsung accumulates billions in profits at the expense of its workers. It has a well‐documented history of labour abuses in its supply chain – from union busting, poverty wages, insecure and unsafe work, to forced overtime, informal work and modern slavery. Workers are working in such distressed circumstances that in some countries the company has had to remodel its dormitories to prevent employees from committing suicide. It is time for the Giant Tech to ‘End Corporate Greed’ and guarantee a fair living wage and trade union participation and representation for its workers.

McDonald’s – the fast food giant does not bargain with a trade union over working conditions for workers in the UK – but it does in Denmark, France and Germany. In Denmark and Germany the collective agreements cover franchised stores as well as well as McDonald’s own corporate stores.

With the European Commission, International Monetary Fund, and other institutions increasingly recognising the need for wage increases to drive economic growth, and tackle inequality, the right to collective bargain is vital not only for working people, but for the economy and social justice.

“There should be no place in a modern economy for companies that do not negotiate with trade unions” said Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the ETUC. “Collective bargaining between employers and trade unions is the best way to get sensible pay rises that benefit workers, company productivity and the economy as a whole.”

“Samsung and McDonald’s like to promote themselves as modern, family-friendly brands, but their attitude to trade unions is strictly 19th century” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC. “We will not rest until workers get a fair deal in these companies.”

Solidarity With Strikers Event On December 12th!

Unite the Resistance presents a 'Solidarity Social with Strikers' on Tuesday 12 December, 6.30 to 9.30pm at The King's Arms, 11 Bloom St, Salford M3 6AN.

Join strikers, Trade Unionists and activists for an evening of solidarity. Hear the latest from the strikes at Mears Housing, First Buses, NW Arriva Buses, the DVSA & more. Entry £5-£15 (free entry for strikers).

For more info, click here or visit the UTR website