If you tuck into a chicken product from Tesco, Morrisons or Marks & Spencer, there’s a good chance it passed through one of the 2 Sisters Food Group factories in the West Midlands. More than 1,200 workers struck there today, Friday—against plans to pay them chicken feed.
2 Sisters boss Ranjit Bolparan is one of the richest men in the region and has spent the year buying up other companies. But this year he offered workers on £6.22 an hour a raise of just 20p.
“We’re happy to have put our foot down,” one worker told Socialist Worker. “We make food for big companies who make millions—and they say they can’t afford to pay us properly”.
There were hundreds on strike at each of the three 2 Sisters sites this morning, representing the vast majority of the morning shift. The Unite union members are bitter at the latest in a series of pittance pay offers, alongside plans to slash overtime rates and charge them for parking.
And they know how much money they are making for the firm. Workers at the smallest of the four sites on strike told Socialist Worker they made £20,000 profit a day for the company. At the largest they process 55,000 birds in one shift—while supervisors pile on the pressure to get more through.
“We are monitored all the time, even when we go to the toilet” said health and safety rep Diana. “How do you work under that stress? Management have tried to scare people—but now everyone can see how strong we are when we stand together”.
Other workers spoke of the joint pains that come with working in a chilled environment (6°C on the shopfloor and -2°C in some areas), of co-workers in tears and of supervisors yelling at people.
The majority of the workers are Asian and most of the rest are from Eastern Europe. The industrial estates of West Bromwich rang out with shouts, cheers and slogans in Punjabi and English.
“In there they shout at us,” said striker Jas. “But when we are all together on strike they can hear us—and anything is possible.” More talks were planned this afternoon, and if the dispute is not resolved more strikes are planned on Tuesday and Friday of next week.