Samworth Brothers and their Orwellian “Project Fair Reward”

The recent rise in the national living wage, although still falling well short of a real living wage of £10 per hour, was meant to make it easier for workers to afford to pay their rent and bills. But sadly, greedy businesses across the country are using minimal basic rate increases as a green light to erase premier payments for working unsocial hours.

It is not that big businesses are not making profits for their already wealthy owners, it is just that bosses will jump at any chance they can to maximise their profit margins at their workers expense.

This is demonstrated by the fact that the Tories have slashed corporation tax from 28% in 2010 to just 17% by 2020, effectively giving businesses a £15 billion tax break. This coming at the same time that millionaire bosses are spouting forth endless excuses about why their attacks upon workers are justified by alleged shrinking profits.

On 13 April, Channel 4 News exposed the callous nature of such attacks on the rights of workers using the example of Samworth Brothers here in Leicester. Their report made special reference to the Bradgate Bakery in Beaumont Leys, which the news report identified “as a major supplier of sandwiches to TESCO.”

Channel 4 “obtained documents that show company plans to slash bonuses, including overtime and bank holidays, prior to introducing the living wage.” Apparently Samworth Brothers “has entitled the new deal as Project Fair Reward,” the news report explained, adding:

“The changes include Sunday overtime, where pay for some is currently £13.78 per hour, but from June the new rate goes down to £13.10, and in 2017 it goes down again to £11.79, and a year later drops to £10.62, and finally in 2019, three years on, it may fall even further to around £9 per hour.”

If that was not enough, Channel 4 News continued: “There are cuts in other rates as well. Nightshift and basic overtime will fall by 50% by 2019.” Not to mention “the end of paid breaks.”

The bosses at Samworth Brothers would of course prefer that their employees did not join a union, and did not organise collectively to resist these immensely unfair and unnecessary contract changes. Samworth’s management know full well that they cannot continue trampling over the rights of a unionised workforce.

The recent CEO of Samworth Brothers (until December 2015), Lindsey Pownall, is especially conscious of the power of unions to affect positive change. This is because in April she was appointed to the board of directors of TESCO, a company at which workers are already well unionised with collective bargaining rights.

So when TESCO recently attempted to attack the pay and condition of their employees, their workers were having none of it, and have been successfully fighting back.

Earlier this month (on 15 April), TESCO workers in Ireland condemned their bosses efforts to change conditions of employment for 1,000 of their workers without agreement. But rather than just moaning at their bosses, trade union members in TESCO Ireland voted emphatically in favour of industrial action by a margin of 99 per cent (with a turnout of 85%).

This united action has successfully forced their money-grubbing bosses back to the negotiating table, despite the previous position of TESCO management, which was to ignore their workers’ demands for collective talks. Hopefully this positive action should inspire TESCO workers here in England to push their own union (USDAW) into building a fightback against the current onslaught upon their working conditions.

Unlike USDAW, the Bakers Union are always ready and willing to fight for workers’ rights, and just last week they helped spearhead an international campaign that succeeded in forcing McDonald’s to cave-in and offer their employees fair and proper contracts, unlike the zero-hours contracts they were forced to accept before (“McDonald’s offer staff the chance to get off zero-hours contracts,” The Guardian, April 15, 2016).

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