2 Sisters has branded a Unite press statement as “grossly misleading and inaccurate” after the union claimed the company’s handling of a dispute at its Smethwick plant near West Bromwich was “disgraceful” and “irresponsible”.
The poultry company said 55 employees were suspended at the beginning of the month following unofficial industrial action by a “small minority of the workforce”.
Unite claims the workers took part in a sit-in following what it said was mounting concerns that the company had “failed to act appropriately” in response to a reported incident of racial harassment.
In a statement, Unite said: “Following the company's investigation of the racial abuse, the convenor who made the initial complaint was suspended while no action was taken to investigate the complaint against the employee who had made the abusive comments.”
Joe Clarke, Unite regional officer, said: "2 Sisters has failed to satisfy its workers that it will work with the union to address concerns of racial harassment at their workplace.
"The workers are clearly aggrieved at their response to the racial abuse allegations which, disgracefully, has been to suspend the convenor who raised the concerns in the first place and tried to resolve the matter. Of course we cannot support unofficial action but the company's ludicrous response to this situation is adding to tensions at the plant, and has wasted police time and disrupted production.”
However, 2 Sisters has hit back at the union’s allegations. A spokesman said: “The suggestion that this action was related to allegations of racial abuse is very tenuous. The senior shop steward had been suspended earlier in the week because he had failed to follow several management requests and displayed unprofessional behaviour and conduct.
“The allegations of racial abuse had previously been investigated thoroughly by 2 Sisters Food Group and the Security Company in line with agreed procedure.
“We have had daily contact with the permanent Unite representative during the past week to try and ensure a satisfactory conclusion that is fair and reasonable to all employees in the shortest time possible.”