Employees at Greencore’s manufacturing site in Hull will be flying to Dublin tomorrow in a bid to stop potential pay cuts and contract changes.

Members of the company’s workforce, who are part of Britain’s biggest union Unite, will deliver a petition signed by hundreds of employees to Patrick Coveney, Greencore’s chief executive, based at the firm’s headquarters in Santry.

Around 236 members of the company’s Hull workforce, which produces sandwiches, celebration cakes and desserts for a number of supermarket businesses, have been threatened with redundancy should they not accept changes to their contract of work. This includes no overtime or shift pay and no extra pay for bank holidays.

Jennie Formby, national officer for food and drink at Unite, said: “Unite members at Greencore are furious over Greencore’s rotten behaviour towards its workers. Our members only want what’s fair. A living wage instead of a minimum wage, and a fair rate for overtime, shift work and bank holiday working.

“Greencore management say they value their employees, but their bullying behaviour in threatening Hull workers with their jobs if they don’t accept pay cuts proves the opposite is the case. Greencore says it can’t afford to pay fair rates, but its sales and market share is increasing and the business is a profitable, successful and growing company.

“We urge the Irish government and minister of agriculture to use the power of their ‘golden share’ to exert pressure on Greencore management to make them stop the attacks on their loyal cake and dessert workers in Hull and give them a fair share of the cake."

Greencore has released a statement on the move, which said: "Greencore has no further comment to add to its previous statement. The company can confirm that it is has been in ongoing negotiations with Unite at its cakes and desserts facility in Hull around the terms of their employment. This has come about because the site has been substantially loss-making for the past two years due to over-capacity in the market, an increase in material costs and a weak consumer environment. Unite accepts that the site is loss-making.

"The firm wishes to make it clear that it is not, as has been falsely claimed, cutting pay or putting jobs at risk. Furthermore, less than 20% of the company’s employees at the site are on the national minimum wage. The current proposal to employees involves an increase in base pay and absolutely no redundancies. However, the current financial situation at the site also means that Greencore has tabled proposals to remove premiums for overtime and bank holidays in order to maintain current employment levels and the sustainability of the site.
"Unite has a minority representation among Greencore employees at the site and has refused to formally ballot their members on any of the company’s proposals. Unite has also failed to suggest any credible solutions to save costs at the site. Greencore believes that Unite is deliberately misrepresenting the facts of the present situation and strongly refutes the assertion that it has contravened any employment law at any stage during the course of this process. Greencore takes all such allegations extremely seriously.”

The delegation of Greencore employees will also visit Dublin’s Department of Agriculture and Food during their visit to drum up support for their campaign. Simon Coveney, minister of agriculture, is the brother of Greencore’s chief executive.