Socialist Worker

Premier foods: workers of the world unite in Cambridgeshire

by William Alderson
Issue No. 2185

Workers at Premier Foods cannery in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, struck for one day last week and are set to strike for 48 hours this week.

“I’m here about principles, not just money,” said one striker. The workers are from all over the world including Britain, Poland, Lithuania, Portugal, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

One worker said, “Managers are getting pay rises of £2,500 per year but we are getting only £60 per year.”

Another said, “We were given a 0.2 percent pay rise – that’s 74p per week – and the price of everything is going up.”

The pressure at work has also increased. Joe, a striker, said, “We have to work harder and faster. It’s never good enough.

“They changed the management a couple of years ago. The new management used to run a sandwich factory and they want this place to be like that.”

Management took away the drinks machine, so workers have to go to the canteen.

Sherri said, “Wherever you work in the factory, you have to come outside here and walk round to get to the canteen – even in the snow – and it takes four minutes.”

Wojtek works outside. He told Socialist Worker, “It’s cold and you need a warm drink, but it’s a five to ten minutes walk to the canteen, so there’s hardly time to drink it. There used to be two 30 minute breaks and one 20 minute one, but one 30 minute break has gone.”

Alice added, “Managers come out for a smoke, but we can’t. We get disciplined.”

Workers say the equipment is out of date and breaks down, the roof leaks, it is too cold in winter and too hot in summer.

Sherri said, “In summer it is sweltering on the cooking line. People have passed out on the potato line from the heat.”

The company is even cutting back on protective clothing. Alice explained, “They changed the overalls to ones we wear over our clothes, but tomato puree stains through them – it even stains skin.

“They slip a fiver into our pay packets for cleaning, but why should we have to clean clothes which are stained at work?”

Messages of support to Mark Plumb, Unite Convenor, 19 Kingsley Avenue, Wisbech, Cambs. PE13 2PD. Cheques to “10671 Wisbech Branch” with “Premier Strike Fund” on the reverse.

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Tue 19 Jan 2010, 18:59 GMT
Issue No. 2185
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