Management at Samworth Brothers’ Kettleby factory recently wrote a short letter to their employees to inform them that if they vote to recognise the Bakers Union (BFAWU) then the ‘good times’ might be coming to an end.
First management explained that they wanted to give “some important information” to their staff about the forthcoming union ballot. They then reminded their staff that their current “success… is built on a winning recipe” which included being a “united team”.
This was followed by another reminder that the special benefits offered by Samworth to their workers might come to an end if the current way of working was altered: management wrote (highlighted in bold): “We can only offer these benefits… because of the special way we work as a team.”
The next sentence then warned workers that things might change: “there will be a ballot where you’ll be asked to decide whether we want to stop working in the way we do now…”
Management then suggested that a vote for a union is a vote for strikes, which is utter rubbish. Strikes only ever take place when all other means of negotiating have been totally exhausted, and only take place on the basis of a democratic vote of a union’s membership.
Samworth management wrote that bringing the Bakers Union “into Kettleby would mean big changes to how we work as a team”, suggesting that pay and conditions would deteriorate once a union was recognised. They have forgotten that the right to collective bargaining in a workplace is a fundamental democratic right that exists in Britain which actually aims to improve the resolution of workplace problems.
If management were so sure that the working environment at their factories was so good then they would not have persistently tried to prevent the forthcoming ballot for trade union recognition at Kettleby (as they have been for months). Furthermore, if Samworth Brothers was interested in democracy at all, they would, at the very least, open the ballot up to all their employees across the entire country.
Samworth management understand perfectly well that their workers will benefit from trade union recognition, which is why even they admit “It would be easy to think that having a union will always be better…” Thus they finish with a cloaked threat, noting that it is only the “special way we work as a team” (i.e., without a union) that means they can be kinder and more generous to their employees than at unionised workplaces.
Workers can choose to join a union irrespective of whether Samworth management want to recognise the union. But it is a shame that a successful and growing multi-million pound company feels the need to write to their employees to threaten them that if they do not vote the way that management would like them to vote in the ballot, then they will not enjoy such a large share of the huge profits they are already making for their bosses.