Workers at the 2 Sisters Food Group in the West Midlands won an important victory last month.
More than 1,200 workers there struck against bosses’ plans to pay them chicken feed—and forced bosses to retreat.
Unite union health and safety steward Gurshuran Singh told Socialist Worker, “The bosses have agreed to almost all our demands. They have promised there will be no more bullying and harassment.”
2 Sisters boss Ranjit Bolparan is one of the richest men in the region. But this year he offered workers on £6.22 an hour a raise of just 20p. For some workers this would have been wiped out by a £10 a week parking charge and plans to cut overtime pay.
These have both been dropped. Workers have been offered a pay rise of 28p an hour backdated to August, as well as a helpline for reporting bullying and harassment.
“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 all of the four 2 Sisters sites on Friday 14 December. The industrial estates of West Bromwich rang out with shouts, cheers and slogans in Punjabi and English. The majority of the workers are Asian and most of the rest are from Eastern Europe.
Workers at the smallest of the four sites told Socialist Worker they made £20,000 profit a day for the firm. 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.
They described co-workers in tears and supervisors yelling at people. “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.”