Thursday, 16 September 2010

Is a 5-day strike at Vion Llangefni the right way to go?

I have to admit to a feeling of deep unease over the announcement that 200 staff at the Vion ("Chuckies") chicken processing plant in Llangefni will start a five day strike from next Monday. The strike is in protest at Vion's offer of a 2% wage rise -- the Unite union argued that this is unacceptable considering that inflation is currently running at 3.1%.

The Llangefni plant is operated by the Dutch owned Vion Food Group, which produces and processes beef, lamb, pork bacon and chicken, as well as products such as sausages and cooked meats. The company employs 350 workers in its Llangefni chicken plant and a further 240 at the Welsh Country Foods abattoir in Gaerwen -- as such Vion is one of Anglesey's largest employers. Over the past year, Vion has already shed 140 jobs in the Llangefni plant when it moved to just one shift, and a further 200 jobs were lost at Welsh Country Foods in Gaerwen when the company shifted its retail packaging operation to Winsford in Cheshire.

The newspaper report in today's Holyhead & Anglesey Mail makes no reference to a vote having been held or the margin by which such a vote was won. As the plant employs 350 people, yet only 200 are striking, it suggests that the decision to strike is by no means unanimous amongst all workers at the plant.

Although I recognise that the pay rise is below inflation, one would hope that opting to strike would be very much the last resort -- especially as a five day strike seems to be extraordinarily prolonged in this day and age. This is particularly so when you consider that currently only 15% of private sector workers are unionised, and if we knock out those ex-public sector areas such as utilities, the railways and British Airways, the private sector rate falls to well below 10%. Also with Vion's profit margin running at just 0.7% of turnover according to their 2009 Annual Report (Dutch), it doesn't seem that Vion is currently making vast profits either.

My fear is that industrial action on this scale in a private business, possibly promoted by the Unite union not only for the merits of this particular case, could have damaging implications on Vion's future presence on Anglesey. This fear is compounded by the quote in the H&A Mail by a Vion spokesman, who said ominously, "the business will continue to focus on providing uninterrupted supply to its customers". How difficult would it be for Vion to shift production to another plant -- without a unionised workforce? What knock-on effects will a strike by the Llangefni plant have on the prospects of the Gaerwen plant? I hope that all of these questions have been considered soberly and carefully by both Unite and the workers involved before opting to strike.

47 comments:

Groundhog Day said...

Rearrange the following into a well known phrase or saying.....

Christmas voting turkeys for.

Are these people out of their tiny minds? The offer by the company seems very fair to me considering not only the state of the economy but also the state of employment prospects on the island. Unite union is the one who tried and failed to bring British Airways to its knees. This is the tip of the iceberg when, as I stated in another thread, we will soon be at the mercy of those neanderthal union leaders such as Bob Crow, Mark Serwotka, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley - the last two being the Unite leaders on a nice little earner themselves. Remember when we could not bury our dead and the streets were full of litter? Here's hoping the members of the unions will and ignore their leaders for once showing that they really are lions led by donkeys.

Anonymous said...

They are damned lucky all of them to be in jobs......wake up and smell the coffee boys !

TGC said...

The more socialist view:

"As the plant employs 350 people, yet only 200 are striking, it suggests that the decision to strike is by no means unanimous..."

Perhaps it's because only 200 are members? It's not uncommon (but these days more difficult) for many to simply 'be ill' or 'take a holiday' when a strike is on, which also distorts figures.

The risk of losing the plant is, I agree, a real one. However, these people are already on minimum or at least very poor pay rates, given the mundane and repetitive work they do. So, 2% to a well-paid commuter from North Wales to London might seem fair. To someone living on that already poor wage, it might not.

The workplace is an equation. The only balancing factor the worker has to counter the employer in times of difficulty is the threat of industrial action. Nobody takes the loss of 5 days' pay lightly, no matter how 'militant' you want to cast them as being. Remove the unions and the right to strike, and we'll be back to slave labour and kids up chimneys in no time.

If Vion really has made such a low margin, then who is really to blame? Them, for being inefficient? The workers, for being too expensive? Or maybe it, like so many other things, is down to stupid old all of us - for wanting food so cheap that it is unrealistic and unsustainable.

A shift to China might sort the problem, until they realise they are also being exploited and start looking at ways of improving their lot.

Capitalism feeds and depends on someone getting richer at the expense of someone else. I agree with the comments in Michael Moore's latest film, that capitalism is essentially evil in nature.

Anonymous said...

Capitalism and private enterprise pay the bills and create employment.It is to be preferred to socialism, and more so to communism. Many who are in a position to pregress start off as socialists, and aspire to be capitalists, then they disown socialism ?? What is the moral ?

The Red Flag said...

In most of the island's major employers wage rises have been either nil or below inflation for the last two years. If this upcoming year is the same then you can expect an awful lot more of this and quite rightly so. Services are about to be slashed (yet council tax won't be going down), benefits reduced, Tax Credits restricted and interest rates will start to rise some time in the next 12 months despite inflation being above target and predicted to rise even more particularly in foodstuffs. Not to mention 600,000 public sector workers about to be shown the door (hands up in Llangefni Kremlin). All of that hurts the people at the bottom not the middle or the top and you would have to be three parts pissed by breakfast time to think you won't see a rise in industrial unrest - what else does a worker have that has any effect other than his or her right to withdraw their labour.

Why should workers on low incomes bear the brunt of the total ineptness of the politicians at all levels and the absolutely criminal activities of the bankers whio have got off scot free.

"We're all in this together" "It's fair". Are we bollocks and is it balls as like.

And don't think this is somehow anti ConDem - the jokers and other clowns that infest the Labour party are just as much to blame. And like at the alternatives - UKIP, BNP, Plaid Cymru, CDA.

What a farce.

Anonymous said...

Da iawn, Red Flag. Very well put indeed.

Not only these facts, but the build-up of pressure as the gap between the retired with their own homes, and the first-time buyer workers who need about £40,000 as a deposit before they'll even be considered for a mortgage, grows.

How capitalism is viewed will change as the cuts start to inflict wounds. The cuts, remember, haven't started in earnest yet. When soon they do, we can expect to see Britain change in political outlook in a big way.

Will the most highly-paid go at Llangefni, private Vion or public Council? Will they heck. And if some do go, it will be with a handsome 'keep you going until death' package, all at our expense, of course.

Up the revolution!

Anonymous said...

We will not survive or exit this recession without risk-taking and ensuing distributive rewards, to the workers, by capitalists.
Yes ?

Anonymous said...

14:02. We'd perhaps have much less need to consider strikes as a means of 'negotiation' if the economic model placed less importance on some people getting rich, whilst others get to tread water all their lives.

Equality is something that's pretty hard to argue against. Fine with rewarding those who take risks to get a business going. But there is a limit to how cheap things should naturally be, and how rich business owners get. There's also a limit, and it's much higher than the current minimum wage, to how little money workers are paid.

The Great Councillini said...

"a Vion spokesman, who said ominously, "the business will continue to focus on providing uninterrupted supply to its customers"

Which means they expect their customers will put more importance on continuing to get a chicken in the shops than the welfare of the workers.

What kind of stupid society is that, then? Ah! Western society!

Anonymous said...

One good thing will come out of this. People who are in unions will see just how pathetic and a tool of big business the Labour Party has become. Just watch the industrial unrest that will uinfurl over the next 12 months right across the UK - and play spot the Labour politician on the piquet lines. They'll be noted by their abscence most of the time.

Little short of a fraud they are. taking union money, badgering for more, buit distancing themselves when it's time to fight.

Bunch of fannies.

Anonymous said...

I work for a multi-national company in Anglesey that has also awarded a 2% increase for 2010, where the pay level was already close to minimum wage. It's not brilliant but I am grateful to have the job. I'm sure there's a queue of Anglesey based people who would be only too happy to have a job at Vion.

Anonymous said...

Lots of red flag waving here then. Take your heads out of the sand you ostriches out there, yes perhaps the Vion workers are on low wages but they are wages and they are in employment at the end of the day. If the company goes under then the workers follow, it is a fact that private employers provide the wealth and the jobs. You can be sure that many in the Gin Palace on the Cefni will be out on their ears before long and about time too. I personally am fed up of 25% of my council tax going to their gold plated pensions - when Gordon Brown in the name of Labour and socialism killed off final salary pensions for those in private industries whilst keeping them going in the public sector. If I were a director of Vion then you can be sure that I would be pushing for the first factory to close when the belts need tightening would be be the one in Llangefni.

Anonymous said...

@anon 16:09 when Gordon Brown in the name of Labour and socialism killed off final salary pensions

That actually started under Thatcher and Major and was made worse by allowing the pension funds to have 'holidays'. The 'good work' was the continued by Blair and Brown, but the actual blame lies fairly and squarely at the feet of their predecesors.

it is a fact that private employers provide the wealth and the jobs.

Let's see them do it without tax-breaks and subsidies then if they're so good. In fact if they were so good then they would have planned for this downturn and it won't be affecting them will it.


So, are you in favour of final salary schemes or in favour of business - because you can't be in favour of both.

Anonymous said...

Come the revolution comrades, sycophants like Anon @ 1511 will be in the vanguard taking us right back to the days of hammer and sycle.

The Red Flag said...

Hmmm, well I shall ask you anon15:51.

What do you consider - in this the fourth richest country on the planet (apparently)- to be the minimum acceptable standard of living that a working person should have?

Do you think for instance that a family with two adults working full time should have a minimum income big enough to support themselves, two children, one holiday, a house with enough bedrooms and a suitably sized car.

If you think the answer is yes, then you must oppose tax credits and support quite substantial pay rises. You did know of course that 8.5 out of every 10 children on this island who are in families with at least one wage earner are also in families where the income is so low they rely on tax credit top ups.

Mizzla said...

Extract from the play “Nobody Remembers the Chickens.”

George: Hello Mildred my feathered friend, why the long beak
Mildred: Oh George my partly feathered friend, not long now until the warm bath and the swish swish arrGHHHHHHHHH
George: Yes not long now before the swish swish ARGHHHHHH, of course I wanted to be into egg production myself, you know send the British worker to work on an egg, but not now it’s boil in the bag or if we are lucky a Ginsters paaasty.
Mildred : Yes a Ginsters Paaaaaaasty…….George do you believe in heaven
George: yes Mildred ahem sings “Down the lane I walk with my sweet Mary, feathers of gold and beak like cherries. It'll be good to touch the green, green grass of home. Yes, they'll all come to meet me, wings flapping, smiling sweetly. It'll be good to touch the green, green grass of home.”
Mildred: George, George I’ve just heard the factories shut for a week
George: You mean another week of clucking and a pecking
Mildred: Yes George
George: Ah….whoopee.

Mildred: George the thing about you and eggs…
George: Yes Mildred I know, I know.

Anonymous said...

5 days represents around 2-2.5% of 12 months salary lost. About the same as you are disputing.

Just take the offer...you probably won't have a job in 12 months anyway and you will need that extra cash then.

Inflation will be lower then as well....because of the lower wages being offered.

The Great Councillini said...

I once came across a US-based mining company operating in Peru that was happy to see its employees slowly poisoned by lead, and the local river used as a dumping ground for cyanide wastes. Its US web site said it was ethical and looked after the environment and workers.

So, imagine what we find when we consult Vion's view of itself as an employer:

"The success of VION Food Group is largely dependent upon the dedication and welfare of its employees. VION Food Group considers them to be the most important asset of the business. VION Food Group offers its employees good and competitive working conditions, and encourages them to develop and deploy their talents."

I bet there are a lot of people chopping bits off dead chickens that have a lot of talent beyond the conveyor belt. I wonder how many get to benefit from Vion's vision for self-furtherance?

The Red Flag said...


Inflation will be lower then as well....because of the lower wages being offered.


Really? The serious thought is that it will be up to to around 5.5% in 18 months time and that base rates are going to have to rise quite quickly which in turn will push up mortgage rates. (That's part of what's driving the tories agenda - so that that's all that they rise to.) In a 'frozen' economy that removes money that should be spent in shops and businesses so if things aren't looking rosy for them at the moment, 18 months time looks a bit grimmer especially with higher VAT and even less credit about.

Still, business always loves the tories so it must be what they want eh?

Anonymous said...

The BoE said this in August:

"Bank Governor Mervyn King said inflation would stay higher than it had previously forecast next year, remaining above the 2% target for a second year until the end of 2011, thanks mainly to the planned VAT hike in January.

But it stuck to its guns on the crucial two-year forecast, which is the horizon the monetary policy committee looks at when it sets rates and shows inflation dropping back below 2%.

The forecast shows CPI inflation falling rapidly to around 1.4% in 2012, when the VAT hike drops out of annual comparisons - and this is broadly similar to the two-year forecast in May's inflation report."

I read 'controversial' not 'serious' for the higher inflation rate you gave.

They should still consider how long it is going to take to earn back the lost income, even if a wage rise to 3.1% was given, shouldn't they?

Anonymous said...

the best way would be for the Vion stikers to strike one day a week for 5 weeks, i.e every Monday. If they did that it would cause more dispruption and headache for the Employers. A week off, is easily covered, but 1 day for 5 weeks is more difficult, good luck, please don't ask Lord Kinnock to support you, he's too busy, doing nothing.

The Red Flag said...

Druid, I had a post oon earlier tonight in response to anon 18:43. It seems to have vanished. Was it too long? Or did it bore the server to death?

The Red Flag said...

(1) The BoE left them unchanged for 14th month on the trot however Mr Sentance voted for a rise for the third time on the trot on the grounds that it was better to have a slow steady rise rather than a sudden and very sharp one which he believes is going to have to happen and soon to choke off inflationary pressure that is already building. The BoE stated it expects inflation to be below 2% in two years time with inflation currently at 3.1% (over 5% in some foodstuffs with RPI currently at 4.7%)). ‘Economists raised concerns about persistence of “core inflation”, which excludes food and energy costs and rose from 2.6pc to 2.8pc, and a sharp surge in services inflation, from 3.6pc to 4pc.
The OECD has stated that it wants the UK to start raising interest rates no later than Q4 2010 and to raise them to at least 3.5% by Q4 2011 as it believes the BoE inflation forecast is wrong and that sterling ois going to weaken. The ‘Taylor Rule’ shows that the base rate at the moment should be 4.2% and that by artificially holding at down we are seriously damaging ourselves and sowing the seed to create a situation of rapid inflation and base rate increases as the economy attempts to find it’s own level and the cost of imports – both finished goods and raw materials rises ppurely because sterling lowers.
//

The Red Flag said...

(2) //cont. The lending banks say they are going to have to raise interest rates to borrowers even if base rate remains static or substantially lower the rate they are paying savers. The lending banks also have a very real concern that RPI inflation will runaway to between 6-9% by June 2011 forcing the BoE to raise rates whether it wants to or not and in turn forcing them to raise them in further than they already feel they have to anyway with some high street lenders believing that the only thing that will temper inflation is continued falling house prices, the impact of large public spending cuts and growth in unemployment so that there is less High Street disposable income but they are not overly-confident that that will work.
What makes things even more unpredictable is the USA. It is the powerhouse of the planet and it is in tatters. None of it’s forecasts are coming right and they are about to start a second wave of QE. If America does not recover, we can’t.
Now call me bizarre, but when High Street banks want higher interest rates, higher unemployment, lower spending and falling house prices as they see that as the only way to contain inflation where as the BoE says that inflation will fall anyway and is keeping interest rates artificially low, then one of them is seriously wrong. Coupled with the fact that they are all banks and after causing what happened or failing to even see it coming have no credibility whatsoever, then there is a problem.

The Red Flag said...

(3)// cont. Now the man who did see it all coming – Harold Roubini – what has he got to say? Basically that the western governments have failed to bring the banks to heel, have stupidly allowed the banks to ‘socialise’ their debts and given them taxpayers money which they have subsequently gone on to use to create more debts.
He believes a second huge wave of defaults and crashes – bigger than 2007/2008, will hit in 2012.
Now you might well say he is wrong. But he was right last time and the BoE most certainly was not.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Red Flag - probably too long, blogger has a problem with really long posts I'm afraid. Always best to copy it before posting...

P.S. Nouriel Roubini, surely?

Anonymous said...

I am well aware of Harry Houdini, although I have to say that I predicted the crash several years before him, but nobody listened.

Anonymous said...

*joke*

Anonymous said...

"Lord Kinnock to support you, he's too busy, doing nothing."

Oh, I dunno. He's probably counting lots of Euros in his bank account, as is his wife. And his son, if memory serves. A fine EU family.

What was it that Neil Kinnock's father said when he first entered Parliament? "Remember, Neil: MP stands for more than Member of Parliament. It also stands for Man of Principle."

The Red Flag said...

Druid you are right Nouriel. I was rushing and trying to remeber what I wrote and Anon @ 22:55 & 22:57 is probably more right than he/she realises - I probably subconciously linked Roubini with Houdini. Doh!

Anonymous said...

Nouriel Roubini's site is useful for international finance/business/politics updates but M.King (of BoE fame) got one thing right when speaking to the Trades Union Congress this week. "the problem is that rich developed countries have borrowed money from the governments (soveriegn wealth funds) and business and wealthy individuals (bank deposits and bonds etc) to fund their deficits. While the individuals in those same 'rich' developed countries have used their money to 'consume' the goods,food and oil produced by the cheap labour force of the 'poor' countries" from whom they have actually borrowed the money." This has left the 'rich' countries with massive debts and effectively bankrupt in some cases.

this is a paraphrase of what King said.

I refer those dedicated readers of this blog to an earlier comment of mine posted as 'the outsider', when I mentioned the thought I had many years ago at school about the unsustainable idea that we could import cheap raw materials and via our superior knowledge and technology add value to those imports and turn them into expensive manufactured goods that we sold at a profit to everyone else!
How the tables have been turned , and in less than my lifetime.

Anonymous said...

The tables are turning, the people want to be heard and not ignored, the days of politicians thinking that they knew what was good for the people ar elong gone, people want to be treate dlike human beings and not like mushrooms, i.e kept in the dark and fed on bull shit!
Neil Kinnock still keeps his eye open on the goings on in Anglesey thanks to his wife, and he would be as much good in a fight as my old grandmother, if the workers of vion are striking for a reason, then go ahead and strike, good on you, but don't expect Albert Owen the fat controller to help you.

Anonymous said...

I think those in the "Llangefni Kremlin" would be grateful for a 2% pay increase. If they're lucky IoAcc will only lose 10% of its staff and suffer zero increases in pay over the next 4-5 years, when the likely November CSR is announced.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 13:48, much as it grieves me to say it, but the tory cuts are a bit smoke and mirrorish and are fooling people. The problem is the debt of the country. Spending will see that increase to 1.3TN by 2014/15 and government spending will also increase over the same period as follows - £696 billion in 2010-11 (up from £669 billion in 2009-10), then £699 billion, £711 billion, £722 billion and £737 billion.
The tory cuts will not fully impact until after then. Anything that happens between now and then is just an hors d'oevres.

Mozzila said...

On a serious note..

If I can, I will return to the original question of whether the proposed strike action is justified having regard to the current economic slow down.

In terms of Unite, the factory has little political weight, as opposed to say British Airways, I doubt you will hear about the strike on the main news outlets. (and I don’t mean the regional output)

I see little benefit for Unite therefore to ‘prompt’ strike action. The decision to go on strike is a difficult one; voting to loose a week’s wages is not taken lightly. They will have known of the dangers - that the factory could close, but maybe this is an indication of how bad things have become, that they are willing to risk this to fight for what they see as a fair wage.

Your concerns Druid are well founded, but remember for the small man/ woman to stand up and say enough is enough takes courage, and we shouldn’t dismiss them out of hand, without having first having heard their side of the dispute.

Anonymous said...

One positive thought....

If the strike helps kill off the factory, at least Llangefni might not stink as much.....

...and after cleaning up Anglesey Council, we can all breathe easy.....no stink at all....!!!

Anonymous said...

Strike to protect your rights as a hard worker and not a slave, on these blogs most are slaves, most are idiots, be a radical, be a man and be heard, stuff the employers, give them a bloody nose and a lesson in employment rights.

Huw Terry

Anonymous said...

Well said, the voice of common sense, instead of politicians and bad employers using the economic times to screw employees, stand up to them and defend your rights! Huw Terry may be nuts but he makes sense.

Anonymous said...

It hasn't taken long following Labour's defeat for the left wing loonies to set about and knacker the Country up, in the same way they have at Anglesey County Council.

Groundhog Day said...

Mention of the Kinnocks on this thread prompts the question why did Glenys not take the title of Baroness Bisto on her elevation to the House of Lords to reflect hers and Neil's epic journey on the European Gravy Train - and her a railwayman's daughter too!

cadno-cadarn said...

for my beloved Medra Mona..

taking refuge means , poking your head in the sand and letting the bankers rule your life?'

what is wrong with printing your own money?

watch this space and you may be presently surprised.

those who come to me with their hearts open will get further information for free.

http://cadno-cadarn.livejournal.com

a.n.s

ar gyfer fy anwylyd MEDRA Mona ...

Mae arian yn fodd o gyfnewid syniadau, nwyddau, a gwasanaethau. Syniadau, nwyddau, a gwasanaethau yn cael eu cyfoeth. Nid yw arian yn gyfoeth, ond yn hwyluso Prynwyr a Gwerthwyr mewn cyfoeth cyfnewid.


er mwyn i hyn weithio GALON RHAID AGOR BOB AMSER.

cymryd yn golygu lloches, procio eich pen yn y tywod a gadael y bancwyr rheol eich bywyd? '

beth sydd o'i le gyda argraffu eich arian eich hun?

gwyliwch y gofod hwn ac efallai y byddwch yn synnu ar hyn o bryd.

y rhai sy'n dod i gyda eu calonnau yn agor yn derbyn gwybodaeth bellach am ddim.

http://cadno-cadarn.livejournal.com

a.n.s

Anonymous said...

Good news a settlement has been reached and the strike is no longer taking place.

Anonymous said...

is this desperation for local jobs why the council's trading standards have failed to take proper action about the illegal practices (burning chicken carcasses) going on at the farm behind the industrial estate (off the bottom roundabout) in Llangefni
Are they fightened they might loose the jobs and so allow the environment to be compromised

Anonymous said...

That's good news the strike is sorted, chicken nuggets all round!

Anonymous said...

That's good news the strike is sorted, chicken nuggets all round!

Anonymous said...

To Anon 19:26

Control of burning of fallen stock is regulated by DEFRA and enforced by the Environment Agency. Nothing to do with the Council's Trading Standards at all.

Anonymous said...

i work for vion in another part of the uk.
they are making nice profits which are published on their website and available to see from companies house.
so good in fact the final shareholder dividend payment for the last year was £15 million.

vion also have in the past failed to fully comply with the scottish agricultural minimum pay rates.

vion may talk the talk on how much they value their workers but they dont walk the walk.

solidarity to the welsh workers.