Angry employees at the Heinz factory in Wigan have called a meeting to discuss possible strike action amid claims of poor treatment of workers.
Agency staff at the giant Kitt Green plant say they are fed up of being treated as second-class citizens and have hit out at recruitment agency Randstad which organises their work.
Organisers of the meeting, which will take place next weekend, say staff have been left on the breadline by botch-ups getting wages paid, with claims employees have had to beg for what they are entitled to while the delays for money stretch into weeks.
They also blasted the zero-hours contracts many people are on, accusing the factory of cutting costs by sending staff home without warning and not providing enough regular hours to make a living.
Trade union Unite has sent out a statement expressing its concern at what is going on, while Randstad has said it is determined to put things right.
A whistleblower at Heinz said: “The treatment of temporary workers has reached an all-time low.
“Staff are being asked to work four-hour shifts and are also being sent home half way through shifts when they aren’t needed. How is anyone supposed to survive with a four-hour shift?
“This also has an impact on the shift premium that workers get paid on their wages for working a 39-hour week.
“Someone who has worked a 39-hour week gets a higher shift rate then someone who works a couple of hours less. So it makes sense to lay someone off for a few hours to save money.
“Yet again the company is thinking of their own self interest and maximising profits by avoiding paying premiums to hard-working and loyal workers.
“The recruitment agency Randstad has also been making mistakes with people’s wages week in week out. Staff are having to phone them up to basically beg for their wages.
“There have been cases of people waiting two months to get what they are owed. You can just imagine how much pressure this puts on working families already living on the breadline.
“Staff have had to go to foodbanks because of these mistakes. This treatment is disgusting not only to the workers of Heinz but to the families of Wigan and surrounding areas who have relied on Heinz as a trusted employer for 60 years.”
The campaigners say they will call for a complete ban on using zero-hours contracts at Heinz, saying they are little more than a way of reducing workers’ rights.
In a statement Unite said: “A number of workers have informed us of the fact, that despite many years of service at Heinz on full-time contracts, Randstad are arbitrarily forcing these workers including our Unite members onto zero hours contracts.
“Whilst this is being unfairly implemented Randstad have continued with a steady influx of new labour, and that new staff are given full-time working.
“This has meant that many of our members are compelled to sit and wait on a day-to-day basis for a text that may give work the next day.
“Such a blatant and fundamental breach inflicts obvious financial detriment. Dignity is a fundamental human right that extend to every workplace including Heinz.
“There is no dignity for any individual forced to sit waiting to see if they may secure work. It renders impossible the chance to plan a life around such a schedule.
“It inflicts extreme poverty, which threatens people’s right to life itself and makes impossible the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms essential to a humane way of life.
“Unite is concerned at this unfair and callous treatment of our members, and because of information received a report has gone to our legal team and there is a collective grievance for all workers to sign and show their support.”
The allegations were put to Heinz and the company said it had no comment to make.
A spokesperson for Randstad said: “Randstad is committed to ensuring fair treatment of all workers and will be meeting with the union representatives this week in order to rectify any potential issues.
“We would like to reassure all workers that we are investigating these claims as a matter of urgency, and with full transparency.”
The meeting is on Saturday April 13 at Worsley Mesnes Club on Poolstock Lane at 11am.