“Two prominent Labour MPs have lashed out at Leicestershire’s biggest private employer after it sacked” Bakers Union (BFAWU) activist Kumaran Bose (June 16, Leicester Mercury). The first of these politicians was Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden, and the other was a relative latecomer to the Samworth dispute, despite taking place right under his nose, Jon Ashworth, MP for Leicester South. Better late than never Jon!
In January, Samworth in a cowardly fashion informed their staff about cuts to “premium and overtime payments”, just prior to being legally obliged to increase their workers’ wages in line with the new national living wage. Taking their staff and the public for fools, the Samworth bosses have cynically denied these cuts to premiums and their “abolition of paid breaks” are in any way related to efforts “to help fund the national living wage, which came into force on April 1.”
More importantly the bosses at Samworth don’t much like unions. This is why they sacked Kumaran Bose. Samworth management seem to have been particularly upset that Kumaran spoke publicly about the inequitable cuts facing fellow workers, which could lead some employees to lose around £2,000 a year.
Labour MP, Siobhain McDonagh, said in letter addressed to the seemingly ignorant Samworth boss Alex Knight:
“It is extremely disappointing that this loyal employee has been found guilty of ‘gross misconduct’ simply for highlighting the extent to which Samworth employees are losing out. I have seen a copy of your new terms and conditions and I do not believe Mr Bose was over-exaggerating whatsoever when he said some employees could be up to £2,000 worse off.”
Jon Ashworth, Labour MP for Leicester South, is also now calling on Samworth Brothers to back down from bullying their workers. As reported in the Leicester Mercury this week he said:
“It is disgraceful that one of the leading Union organisers who has spoken out against the pay restructuring was sacked earlier this month. I have written to Samworth Brothers to raise my concerns over the sacking of Kumaran Bose and to request that BFAWU is granted formal recognition at the site. I encourage all the workers to join BAFWU and to stand up for a fair and decent pay.” (June 15, Mercury)
Elaborating on these supportive words on his web site Ashworth recognised that the continuing attacks on staff working conditions has “resulted in hundreds joining” the Bakers Union. “Kumaran Bose was sacked with no disciplinary record at Samworth Brothers,” stated Ashworth. “In fact,” he concluded, “it appears that Kumaran’s only so called crime was to recruit workers at Samworth Brothers to the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union.”
Bringing this point home, George Atwall, regional officer of Kumaran’s union commented:
“Samworth’s management are waging an outright war against the right of their workers to be represented by a union in their workplace. By attacking our most outspoken union members, and with their persistent bullying and intimidation of the people who continue to work hard and generate healthy profit margins for the company, the management have created a climate of fear.”
He said union members had requested a public meeting to demand the reinstatement of Kumaran, which is to be held tomorrow from 6.30pm onwards at Secular Hall, 75 Humberstone Gate, Leicester.
With the local Leicester & District Trades Union Council — the umbrella organisation of trade unions in Leicester and the surrounding area — backing the event, the campaign to bring an end to the systematic bullying at Samworth factories is gaining momentum. Come along and bring your friends and share the following event page on facebook for the meeting.