Marks & Spencer hits out at London demo planned by 2 Sisters workers
Former 2 Sisters employees protesting against the dismissal of 59 staff at the poultry processing plant are travelling to London today (Wednesday) to stage demonstrations outside a flagship branch of Marks & Spencer.
Union Unite has chosen the Marble Arch branch of the 2 Sisters client as the site for the protests, where they plan to call on M&S chairman Sir Stuart Rose to personally intervene in the dispute triggered by what unions describe as a racial incident at the firm.
But 2 Sisters has branded the union’s attempts to involve Marks & Spencer in the dispute as “ridiculous,” pointing out the high street giant has never been a customer of its Black Country 2 Sisters’ factory.
The firm said its own investigations had found no evidence for racial abuse and has repeatedly asserted that Unite’s claim that the workers were sacked for challenging racism in the workplace is false, saying the workers were instead dismissed for their involvement in unconstitutional strike action.
Marks & Spencer has said it is “at a loss” to understand why it is being targeted.
Unite has drafted a letter to Sir Stuart Rose which it intends to deliver to M&S head offices after the protest, calling on him to put pressure on 2 Sisters to give the sacked workers their jobs back.
Jack Dromey, Deputy General Secretary of Unite, said: “Today they are calling on Sir Stuart Rose to intervene and urge 2 Sisters, a major supplier to M&S, to re-instate the sacked workers.”
But 2 Sisters said the claims of racism made by the union were “outrageous” and described today’s protests as a publicity stunt.
The firm’s chief executive Ranjit Singh said: “This isn’t about racism or the actions of corporate businesses, this is a PR stunt by Unite to try and demonstrate its strength to its members.
“This is typical of Unite’s bullying tactics, which is completely out of touch with the current economic climate.
“Unite’s planned demonstrate outside Marks & Spencer, a company that has nothing to do with this site, is disgraceful.”
An M&S spokeswoman said it was “astounded” its Marble Arch store was the target of protests.
She said: “This 2 Sisters’ factory does not supply any product to Marks & Spencer. We are at a loss to understand why Unite thinks it’s appropriate to continue to try and involve M&S in this.
“M&S has no reason or obligation to intervene in this case.”
The London protests follow a series of demonstrations organised by Unite at the firm’s plant in Smethwick and outside its Marks & Spencer store in Birmingham city centre.
In our article on 16 October 2009 we reported a public protest was organised by Unite in Birmingham City Centre in respect of 54 workers from the 2 Sisters Food Group Ltd who had been dismissed following wildcat strikes over alleged racial abuse.
We wish to make clear that 2 Sisters deny Unite’s allegations and claim that the allegation of racial abuse had been thoroughly investigated and was not substantiated.
2 Sisters also claim that all employees who were dismissed had taken part in illegal and unconstitutional strike action. We are happy to make clear 2 Sisters views.