2 Sisters “race row” escalates

Unite has accused 2 Sisters of “behaviour more akin to a 19th-century mill owner” after the poultry processor sacked 59 people from its Smethwick site.


2 Sisters sacked 54 workers earlier this month for taking part in a wildcat strike on 2 September. Unite has branded the dismissal as “unfair” and claimed that the protests were triggered after 2 Sisters failed to discipline a security guard over an alleged incident of racial abuse.

The union organised a demonstration over the sackings outside Birmingham’s main M&S store on Saturday (17 October), claiming that, as a major customer of 2 Sisters, the retailer should intervene. 2 Sisters sacked the union convenor and four shop stewards on the eve of the demonstration.

Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, said: “The disgraceful sacking of 59 workers was triggered by a security guard hurling racist abuse at a shop steward. The shop steward was disciplined, but no action was taken against the security guard. If racist abuse is unacceptable on the dance floor, then there can never be BNP language on the shop floor.”

2 Sisters insisted that it acted fairly over an “illegal and unconstitutional strike”. The processor issued a statement describing Unite’s allegations as “so wholly inaccurate and grossly misleading that they are tantamount to bullying”.

2 Sisters’ public relations executive Peter King said it was “absurd” to claim that racism was at the heart of the action and insisted that 2 Sisters would not tolerate any kind of racial discrimination or abuse. He said that the alleged incident was “thoroughly investigated” and that the security guard, who is also a member of Unite, was disciplined for foul language, but “there was no evidence of racial abuse.”

King described Unite’s implication that M&S was involved in the dispute as “ridiculous” and pointed out that M&S is not, and has never been, a customer of 2 Sister’s Birmingham site. “M&S has no responsibility or obligation to this site, as it is not involved in any way. Unite is misleading the public by using M&S’ brand to garner press interest in this story,” he said.

Ranjit Singh, chief executive of the 2 Sisters Group, added: “This is yet another example of Unite attempting to bully us and our customers. This case has been thoroughly investigated and all decisions have been communicated to all concerned.

“Despite this, Unite’s continued aggressive approach to this case threatens our future in Birmingham and that of the 500 workforce that we employ at this site.”

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