Workers at Pilgrims Food Masters claim they face sack if they don't accept new working conditions

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One of Britain's biggest food suppliers which is home to some famous household names has allegedly threatened to sack workers if they do not accept new working terms, including removing Diwali holiday pay and cutting sick pay, staff have claimed.

Pilgrims Food Masters, which is based in Southall and supplies the country's largest retailers with ready meals, were accused of planning to “fire and rehire” workers at its west London plant by the GMB union.

Workers from the plant took their protest to Parliament claiming they face the sack if they do not accept losing paid breaks and reduced pay for sickness.

Workers from supermarket food supplier Pilgrims Food Masters stage a protest outside Houses of Parliament. Credit: PA

London mayor Sadiq Khan backed the PFM workers. "Fire and rehire is an unacceptable attack on workers terms, conditions and livelihoods," he said on Twitter."The @GMBLondonRegion members from Pilgrim's Food have my full support - this appalling practice must end."

Local MP Virendra Sharma also condemned the move to and said he would be writing to PFM to rethink their stance and consider the future of the workforce.PFM said it needed to make changes to sustain the business against a backdrop of declining sales of chilled meals.

But Perry Philips, GMB regional organiser, branded "fire and rehire" as "cruel and outdated".

“This is a low-paid, predominantly women workforce – many of whose families have worked at Pilgrim for generations, and this is the thanks they get. It’s outrageous.

Families have worked at Pilgrim for generations. Credit: ITV News London

“Workers are already terrified about how they will pay their bills; many are already relying on food banks. This will make things so much worse. “GMB calls on Pilgrim to do the right thing by its loyal workforce: stop this savage scheme before it’s too late.” A statement from Pilgrim’s Food Masters said: "Against the backdrop of a difficult economic environment and declining volumes in our Chilled Meals business, we need to make changes that help sustain our business and safeguard jobs.  

"Our aim has always been to secure the best possible outcome for our people, proposing only the minimum changes that are required to support the future viability of the business and bring our T&Cs in line with industry standards.

"Throughout the process we have been open and honest regarding the proposed changes and while we recognise some changes will be difficult for our colleagues, our overarching objective is to protect jobs and retain our current valued workforce.

"Unfortunately, Union members voted against the proposed changes which has resulted in the need to begin a consultation process to legally apply the T&Cs. We are still in the middle of this consultation and continue to actively seek a positive resolution with the GMB Union during this time."

The company added:

  • There are 1,088 staff impacted by the proposed changes across our Chilled Meals Business in Southall.

  • These proposed changes to T&Cs bring Southall in line with other Pilgrim’s Food Masters’ sites, standardising contracts to ensure all employees are treated fairly and equitably.

  • Under the new T&Cs the provision of sick pay is significantly improved, set up to provide better support for colleagues.

  • From this year, Pilgrim’s Food Masters is looking at a seasonal gift that has no religious connection to be more inclusive across all our sites. Turkeys have been provided in the past, as have Diwali gifts. Any previously awarded gifts are being replaced with a gift of the same monetary value.

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