Workers arriving at the Danish Crown meat processing plant in Birkenhead, in northwest England, on March 6, found their factory shuttered. They were handed letters saying that production had ceased with immediate effect. (> Danish Crown shuts down UK factory after only 38 days of ownership)
Danish Crown’s UK subsidiary, Tulip, acquired the factory in November 2011 – and announced closure plans on January 16, citing “operational difficulties” and stating “it would require significant investment to bring the … facility up to the manufacturing standards of the rest of the Tulip Group.”
The announcement triggered a 90-day consultation period in which the company must justify its plans, provide the union with any data it demands and give good faith consideration to alternative proposals.
Tulip, however, abruptly shut the factory while consultation with UNITE was in progress, then announced that production would be transferred to a Tulip factory in Cornwall, thereby confirming it was never their intention to consider alternatives.
After shutting out the plant’s 218 workers, the company is now refusing to pay the enhanced redundancy terms negotiated at the factory last year, insisting on only the statutory minimum payout.
And Tulip is coercing the workers into accepting this disgraceful offer by linking it with the “lieu of notice” payment: only when they agree to accept the minimum redundancy will the lieu of notice be paid in a lump sum. This is crucial, since the alternative, which is payment on a weekly basis, prevents them from seeking other work.
In a media statement, UNITE has said, “Now managers are trying to bribe them to go quietly or they will prevent them from trying to get a new job for the duration of their notice period.”