Here’s a sandwich story with a very messy filling…
On Monday The Daily Mail, which as we know can’t see a bacon buttie without spotting the politics within, devoted its front page to the fact that no one in the UK wanted to make sandwiches any more. Greencore Group plc-‘a leading international manufacturer of convenience foods’- which makes sarnies for M&S, was having to advertise in Hungary to get the hired help for its Northampton factory.
The message was clear. Britain is full of shiftless benefit scroungers who don’t want to do an honest days work for an honest days pay.The jobs are there but the workers don’t want them.
This story has as many angles as a hall of mirrors but lets start with two.
The first- easily dispatched- is the heartwarming sight of the Daily Mail shooting itself in the foot. The story has been roundly disproved everywhere. The truth is that the company advertises in Hungary and Poland to encourage foreign workers to come over to the UK on minimum wages. (Solway Sandwiches closed a factory in nearby Corby this year with the loss of 500 jobs. Many of these local workers are more than keen to work at the new Northampton factory).
The second angle is this .The Mail has drawn attention to the hitherto un-celebrated company in a way that Greencore management must be cursing. The Mail probably thought it was being helpful showcasing its unending hatred of contemporary Britain,but that front page has led to lots of discussion on the net and elsewhere about Greencore employment practices.
Greencore Group plc, based in Ireland, busily buying up smaller companies, with part of their portfolio based in Luxembourg, with 15 factories in the UK and 7 in the US, turns out to be a model of expansion based in part on financial accumulation derived from the workers themselves. It is the very model of a neoliberal company sweating its assets- in this case, the workers rather than the prawn and mayo fillings they assemble.
For instance, there was a nasty episode in the Hull factory(desserts and cakes) in 2013 with a 24 hour strike over pay and conditions after Greencore ignored employment tribunal directives to restore £1.2 million pay and conditions cuts to workers who had seen a £40 a week drop in their already low wages. Instead of complying Greencore unilaterally imposed new(worse) contracts. The company simply ignored the tribunals.
Another light has been shone on the CEO’s pay packet.A whopping annual 1.7 million euros for Patrick Coveney.
There’s an interesting site called Glassdoor where employees anonymously score their companies. Greencore doesn’t come out well.There are references to demands to work at any time(Christmas, weekends, New Year) at short notice;terrible bullying on the floor(contested loo breaks) poor pay, sweatshop conditions, and freezing temperatures.Also, a fall in management standards over the past year.
Greencore issued the following statement in response to the increasing levels of interest in this global company.
“Greencore employs around 1,100 colleagues in Northampton, and is currently looking to recruit a number of new staff. We have already started a range of recruitment initiatives locally and have been pleased with the response. However, we will also be considering applicants from further afield, including Hungary, and will be conducting interviews with suitable candidates in due course. We are extremely proud of the diversity of our workforce and, as always, will be hiring on a strict equal opportunities basis.”
Doesn’t really tell us much. But luckily, thanks to the Daily Mail, we will be hearing much more about this important company in the days to come.