LONDON — Strikes at cereal plants are taking place on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. About 80 Weetabix engineers in the United Kingdom in September began striking every Tuesday and Wednesday at factories in Kettering and Corby. They now plan to strike Monday through Thursday beginning Nov. 8.
In the United States, about 1,400 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) are on strike at four Kellogg Co. locations that produce ready-to-eat cereal. Executives of the Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., and the union met on Nov. 2 and exchanged revised proposals, according to Kellogg. On Nov. 3, Kellogg said it no longer was proposing a permanent two-tiered structure and was proposing maintaining a cost-of-living adjustment for legacy employees.
“We’ve proposed no changes to current health care plans, and in fact, have proposed enhanced benefits for all employees,” Kellogg said. “The union continues to insist on proposals that are unsustainable and unrealistic. They’ve proposed adding costs that would threaten the future success of our plants and cereal business.”
The BCTGM rejected the proposal.
“The company’s last, best and final offer does not achieve what our members are asking for: a predictable pathway to fully vested, fully benefitted employment for all employees with no concessions,” the BCTGM said. “Kellogg’s continues to insist on takeaways. The company came to the table insisting that there will only be an agreement if the union accepts the company proposal exactly as it has been written. The company’s proposal was filled with conditions and terms as to what was acceptable to Kellogg’s. These terms and conditions are unacceptable to our members.”
The strikes are happening at Kellogg plants in Battle Creek; Omaha, Neb.; Lancaster, Pa.; and Memphis, Tenn. The RTE cereals made in those locations include Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, Froot Loops, Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes.
The Weetabix engineers are protesting cuts to their pay, terms and conditions that will cost some workers more than £5,000 ($6,800) a year, according to London-based Unite the Union.
“Weetabix is making bumper profits so there is no justification for these ‘fire-and-rehire’ attacks on our members’ wages and conditions,” said Sharon Graham, general secretary for Unite. “They are just not swallowing what in reality is a serving of corporate greed. Unite will not accept attacks on our members jobs, pay and conditions, and Weetabix should expect this dispute to continue escalating until fire and rehire is dropped.”
A Weetabix spokesperson responded, “It is unfair and inaccurate to compare our discussions with our engineers over changes permitted within their existing contracts to other disputes that require new contracts to be signed or face dismissal. This is not something we’re considering. This situation concerns the standardization of existing shift patterns with our engineers and other manufacturing teams, which is permitted under their existing terms of employment. This will mean an increase in take-home pay for workers and, while the voluntary choice of moving to a working pattern during the day does not come with the same level of shift premium for obvious reasons, the proposal is very much in line with other similar businesses.
“We remain in close consultation with our engineers and their representatives and are confident that the opportunity still exists to find a resolution that creates future shared success.”
Post Holdings, Inc., St. Louis, owns the Weetabix brand, the top RTE cereal brand in the United Kingdom with household penetration of 45%, according to Post’s 2020 annual report.