Demo at firm as staff protest over new shifts

WORKERS at Hilton Meats, which supplies nearly half the Tesco stores in the UK with packed beef and lamb, demonstrated outside their factory in Huntingdon, yesterday (Tuesday). They say they are being asked to work 13-hour days (with an hour for lunch) in

WORKERS at Hilton Meats, which supplies nearly half the Tesco stores in the UK with packed beef and lamb, demonstrated outside their factory in Huntingdon, yesterday (Tuesday).

They say they are being asked to work 13-hour days (with an hour for lunch) in cold rooms as part of changes being made to work patterns.

They would have to work three 13-hour shifts in a row - including every other Saturday - instead of a five-day week of eight hours a day.

The change affects about 160 people who will have to work the new rota, including Saturday, which no longer qualifies for overtime.


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The union, Unite, said this presented difficulties with childcare and some people would be working in cold stores for long hours. Spokesman Andy Watson also claimed the changes had been brought in without consultation.

"Workers are up in arms about the proposed changes. This means longer working hours, a negative impact on family life, including childcare arrangements, and a reduction in overtime."

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Mr Watson said about 100 of the 160 people affected were against the changes. The factory employs about 350 people.

One worker, Bernard Good, 57, from Whittlesey, who has worked for the company for a year, said: "We are being told we have to work every other weekend. This means working three 13-hour shifts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 8am to 9pm, finishing on a Saturday night. Then you have Sunday off and then you will work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday from 6am to 7pm.

"So you have one day off in seven days and then you get seven days off, but we'll need it."

A company spokesman said people unhappy with the changes were being given alternative work. However, Mr Good said he had not been offered this.

"I may take that option but if a lot of people want to, there will not be enough jobs for all of us," he said.

Tonia Grey, head of human resources, said that most of the workers had been enthusiastic about the change. Workers from Poland, for example, were keen to take advantage of long weekends.

However, two Polish workers in their early 20s, Dominik Kowalczyk, and Artur Worek, told The Hunts Post: "It is too long hours and it is too cold."

Ms Grey said: "The change is from working 36-and-a-quarter hours over five days, to working 36 hours over three days. They will work 12 days in 28."

She said Tesco had asked the company to supply meat with a longer shelf life and these longer shifts would enable them to do that.

In a statement, the company said it had been discussing the changes since early July and had been meeting with team leaders to ask their opinions.

It said: "As a result of these discussions, we slightly amended the proposal and wrote again to the affected employees with the new proposal - again inviting them to speak to us about any concerns they may have."

Hilton Meats said there were benefits for employees, including more paid holiday.

"The vast majority of our employees have signed up to say that they would like to work on the new shift pattern," the statement adds.

"We are continuing to talk to our employees and will attempt to resolve any concerns that they have as we wish to retain all our employees, who are skilled and very committed.

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