Over 100 strikers and supporters picketed the Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE) coffee factory in Banbury, Oxfordshire, last Saturday.
The Unite union members are on strike over fire and rehire plans that could lose them up to £12,000 a year.
Some 291 production workers received a letter last week giving them 12 weeks’ notice to accept a new contract or be dismissed.
Unite has advised the workers to refuse to sign the new contract. It is thought that only 50 of the 291 have signed.
Steve has been at the plant for 19 years and is one of the production workers who received a letter. He said, “We worked through the pandemic making them profits. These letters are a kick in the teeth.
“They thought the letters would dampen our spirits, instead they have made us more determined. We won’t give in—we’ll keep fighting.”
The mood of the picket was upbeat and people also showed support as they drove past.
The Oxford branch of the communication workers’ CWU union joined the picket, along with members of the Oxford & District Trades Council and the Acorn housing campaign.
One striker who works in packing was angry that the company was imposing shift changes that would not only reduce wages, but ruin family life.
She said, “They have already had money from our pension cuts, they don’t need to cut wages too. We’ll be expected to work bank holidays and Christmas for no extra.”
Another plant utility worker who also received a letter said how JDE planned to keep the factory running with managers.
But he added, “there’s hardly anyone in,” pointing out that there was no smoke from the chimneys—meaning there was no production.
He said JDE had to bring in expensive specialist contractors for maintenance, and he didn’t think the plant could reopen if the production workers were dismissed.
He also explained that the strike is about more than the money JDE will take from the workforce.
If the strike wins there could be a knock on effect—other workers in the company and across the town will gain confidence.
Several strikers were angry at how the cuts target production workers and not bosses.
There was also anger at local Tory MP Victoria Prentis who ignored strikers’ calls for support, and instead met with JDE bosses.
Chris Gray, Unite south east regional officer said, “We’re disappointed the letters have been issued but not shocked.”
He added there was strong support for the dispute and still hoped for talks.
Some strikers want to escalate the action. Further 24-hour pickets were set to take place on Thursday and Sunday of this week and Wednesday of next week.