Unhappy workers at a Tyneside sweet factory are close to striking a deal with bosses.
Staff at the Nestlé factory in Fawdon, Newcastle have had “constructive” talks with management over restructuring plans.
They expressed concern when proposals understood to include changes to paid break entitlements and shift patterns were put forward last year.
No redundancies are thought to be planned as part of the changes but unions claimed pay packets could be slashed for full-time employees.
The confectionery giant insisted changes were necessary “in order to ensure the longer term security of the site”.
More than 450 factory floor staff have been locked in talks with bosses since last summer and threatened to strike if no resolution was found.
A ballot was held by the trades union asking staff to vote on the company’s pay offer, with all 377 workers who voted rejecting it.
But now it appears that a pay deal has been struck, with changes to shift patterns to be finalised later.
A source said:
“We are being given a 2% pay rise and another one in July. The factory is also looking at taking on more staff, although shift patterns probably won’t be sorted until a later date.
“Staff are happier now than they were a few months ago, when there was real unrest. They were threatening to strike but that is not the case any more.”
The Fawdon plant, on Rowan Drive, is second only to York as the company’s largest factory in the UK and opened in 1958.
It was the centre of a police probe earlier this year when unidentified pink tablets were found among Jelly Tots on the factory’s production line.
As well as Jelly Tots the other popular brands manufactured at the plant include Fruit Pastilles, Rolo, Blue Riband, Breakaway, Yorkie, Drifter and Caramac.
It is thought to produce around 40,000 tons of chocolate a year.
A Nestlé spokesman said: “We have had a number of constructive discussions with the trades union and these will continue.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 Feb 2015
Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett has repeated calls for the Living Wage to become mandatory in response to the release of new Living Wage Foundation figures.
The Greens say the minimum wage should be lifted to a minimum of £10 per hour by 2020, £2 more than Labour’s pledge of £8 per hour. Current inadequate wage levels mean too many workers are on ‘grotesquely low wages’.
Natalie Bennett said:
“The latest update from the Living Wage Foundation could not have come at a more significant time. Workers are currently experiencing the most sustained and painful squeeze on their wages since the 1860s. The target set by the Foundation has once again highlighted the growing divide between the wages employees are taking home every month and the amount they need to live, pay the bills and provide for their families.
“That’s why it is so disappointing that the Coalition and Labour opposition have refused to make the commitments necessary to improve worker pay and bring it in line with inflation. Their plans offer nothing except a continuation of our current inadequate wage levels.
“The Green Party would not allow this situation to persist. We are calling for the minimum wage to be made a Living Wage today, and for a target to be set of a £10/hour minimum wage, outside of London, by 2020. We are serious about taking the steps necessary to reduce inequality, tackle low pay, and create an economy that supports everyone.”
Green Party research has revealed how nine in ten big businesses (employing 250+ people) in London are not signed up to the London Living Wage scheme, eight years after the policy was launched.
Baroness Jenny Jones said:
“It’s horrible to think that nine in ten big businesses are holding out and paying poverty wages, while many pay their top executives multi-million pound bonuses. The Living Wage campaigners have been brilliant at getting some employers to voluntarily sign up. But we can’t leave more than half a million Londoners on grotesquely low wages, so we need the London Living wage to become mandatory.”
The new Living Wage rates for 2015 were announced this week. The UK Living Wage Rate is £7.85 and the new London Living Wage rate is £9.15.
Rhys Moore, Director of Living Wage Foundation, said:
“As the recovery continues it’s vital that the proceeds of growth are properly shared. It’s not enough to simply hope for the best. It will take concerted action by employers, government and civil society to raise the wages of the 5 million workers who earn less than the Living Wage.
“The good news is that the number of accredited Living Wage employers has more than doubled this year – over 1,000 employers across the UK have signed up. In the last 12 months the number of Living Wage employers in the FSTE 100 has risen from four to 18 including Canary Wharf Group and Standard Life.
“Those businesses that can should follow the example of as well as hundreds of smaller, independent businesses like CTS Cleaning and Hodgson Sayers Roofing, who pay the Living Wage.
“Low pay costs the taxpayer money – firms that pay the minimum wage are seeing their workers’ pay topped up through the benefits system. So it’s right that we recognise and celebrate those employers who are voluntarily signing up to the higher Living Wage, and saving the taxpayer money in the process.
“The Living Wage is an independent calculation that reflects the real cost of living, rewarding a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 06 Nov 2014
A low pay epidemic is sweeping the North East, it is claimed, as new figures reveal one in four are paid below a living wage.
A report released today by KPMG estimates that well over a quarter of a million workers receive less than the £7.65 per hour experts say is needed for the basic cost of living in 2014.
The TUC claim that some businesses can afford to pay the living wage, calculated by Centre for Research in Social Policy, but are refusing to do so – and the regional economy is suffering as a result.
The North East Chamber of Commerce, however, says there has been progress and last week published a survey which shows 35% of firms increased workers’ pay above inflation last year.
Northern TUC Regional Secretary Beth Farhat called for a bigger commitment. She said:
“People deserve a fair day’s pay for an honest day’s work.
“But low pay is blighting the lives of hundreds of thousands of families in the North East. And it’s adding to the deficit because it means more spent on tax credits and less collected in tax.
“We have the wrong kind of recovery with the wrong kind of jobs – we need to create far more living wage jobs, with decent hours and permanent contracts.
“The fact is there are employers out there in our region who can afford to pay living wages, but aren’t.
“It is now time for all responsible employers to commit to adopting this standard, which enables workers to earn just enough to be able to live a decent life.”
Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle North, will speak at the Living Wage Summit at Newcastle’s Centre for Life on Thursday as part of a week of action on low wages by the TUC.
Newcastle City Council became the first to introduce a living wage and the authority boosted this to £7.55 in April, and South Tyneside has announced it is to follow suit. Councils in Gateshead, Northumberland and North Tyneside all set up working groups to explore the issue earlier this year.
Ms McKinnell, Labour’s Shadow Economic Secretary, said:
“People in the North East are really struggling with the cost of living crisis and with around one in four workers in our region paid less than the living wage, more must be done to tackle the problem of low pay.
“Finding ways to support and encourage employers to pay the Living Wage is a major part of that.
“It is fantastic to see more businesses and Labour-run councils in our region seeing the benefits of adopting the Living Wage, but it is important that we continue to demonstrate the value, both to employers but also to our region as a whole.”
The Living Wage Summit will also hear from local authorities, trade unions, voluntary and community agencies, such as the Child Poverty Commission and employers.
Speakers include James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, Sarah Vero from the Living Wage Foundation, Reverend Simon Mason and Matt Stripe, HR director for Nestle, who are a committed Living Wage employer.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Nov 2014
A future Tory Government would slash benefits for around 100,000 struggling families and young people to fund more low-paid apprenticeships, Prime Minister David Cameron will pledge on Monday.
Cameron will say that he plans to deliver 3 million more apprenticeships by cutting the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 a year.
The plan would affect 70,000 families in receipt of either in-work or out-of-work benefits and tax credits, saving around £135 million a year. This will include 40,000 households who have so far managed to escape welfare cuts, according to Conservative Party figures released to the Press Association (PA).
Figures released at the end of last year (December 2013) show that for the first time in recorded history more low-paid working households are living on or below the breadline than those who are out-of-work. More cuts to in-work benefits could further exacerbate this issue and cost the Tories votes at the next general election.
The Tories would also remove Housing Benefit entitlement from 18-21 year-olds, affecting 30,000 young people and saving an estimated £120 million a year.
SKY News reports that Mr Cameron has the backing of a number of large firms including Nestle, Airbus, Ford, Balfour Beatty, Fujitsu and the National Grid.
“Because of difficult decisions we will make on welfare, we will deliver three million apprenticeships by 2020. This is a crucial part of our long-term economic plan to secure a better future for Britain.
“It will help give us the skills to compete with the rest of the world. And it will mean more hope, more opportunity, and more security for our young people, helping them get on in life and make something of themselves.
“We have already doubled apprenticeships this Parliament. We will finish the job in the next and end youth unemployment.”
Cameron had previously told the Andrew Marr show:
“All the evidence is the cap is too loose, particularly in some parts of the country, so bringing it down saves money, will mean more families getting into work, and what I want to see – the plan we have for Britain – is to spend less money on welfare and more on helping people into work.”
However, the Tories relentless attack against the young and low-paid has come under criticism from their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats.
Leader Nick Clegg used his speech at the Liberal Democrats annual conference to attack the Tories for taking an “axe” to the welfare budget, without showing any “regard for the impact on people’s lives”.
His words will anger millions of people affected by welfare cuts his party helped (voted) to introduce – including the cap on benefits.
Currently the minimum wage rate for an apprentice is £2.73 an hour for 16-18 year-olds. The same hourly rate applies to 19 year-olds who are in the first year of their apprenticeship.
Apprentices over the age of 19, or who have completed their first year, are paid at least the national minimum wage for their age group, with some businesses willing to pay more – if you’re lucky.
The national minimum wage rate for 16-18 year-olds currently stands at £3.79 an hour, £1.06 higher than that for apprentices. Those aged 18-20 receive a minimum wage rate of £5.13 an hour, rising to £6.50 for the over 20’s.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 20 Oct 2014