Janet Gibson, Hull Socialist Party
A Karro Food pork processing plant in Hull that hasn’t witnessed a strike in 30 years is now seeing a section of workers roll out strikes each Monday, organised by general union GMB. This low-paid workforce has had enough!
A Karro striker explained: “The aim is to receive at least the real living wage, as most of our members are on the minimum wage, or just above at £8.41, even if they are classified as being skilled.
“Over the last few years the company has time and again tried to attack our members’ pay and conditions, to the point where members have got so fed up with being asked to do more work for even less pay that they have no option but to strike.
“So far we have been on the picket line for one day a week for four weeks, and plan to be out for at least four more weeks.”
CapVest, a €4 billion private equity firm situated in London’s plush Pall Mall, is the owner of Karro Food Group and Young’s Seafood – with an estimated combined turnover of £1.2 billion in sales.
CapVest boasts a string of investments throughout Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, continental Europe and North America.
While Seamus Fitzpatrick, founder of CapVest, resides in his €8 million Dublin home, one worker on the rain-drenched picket line described the back-breaking work making sausages and profits for Karro Food: “I have to lift 20 to 25 kilos of frozen blocks of meat from the pallet to the conveyor belt. It takes 500 kilos to make one mix. One belt last week was down for 138 mixes.”
Another worker spoke up: “We have to carry 20-kilo bags of rusks that are added to the sausages. It takes four to five bags each mix.
“There are usually 40 to 45 mixes per day, depending if lines are working throughout an eight-hour day.”
Another worker spoke of the 200kg bin of meat pushed to the production line. “You need to be in there to see what we are having to do,” said another striker. “Minimum wage is very difficult to live on,” chipped in another, “considering prices are going up.” Yet another worker described how, no matter how ill you are, you don’t receive any sick pay!
The use of legal intimidation by management can be witnessed in the letter signed by the site director, who obviously fears a step up in the strike action.
The letter states: “Both the company and GMB are disappointed to receive information today that a number of colleagues may be planning to undertake some additional days of illegal unofficial strike action.”
How dare this company write on behalf of the GMB? The letter goes on to quote the employment law giving the legal right of the employer to summarily dismiss, without notice, any employee taking unofficial action.
In comparison to the boss’s dismissal threat, our Socialist Party leaflet was warmly received. We call for the repeal of all anti-trade union legislation, and demanded the company open up the books so workers can see where the profits they created have gone.
We call for trade union struggle for a minimum wage of at least £10 an hour for all, with annual increases at least in line with inflation.
We demand the scrapping of agency recruitment, to be replaced by direct employment monitored by the workers and their trade union, union-agreed rates of pay for all.
We call for big business and finance to be nationalised, and for democratically elected committees of workers to control and manage them.
This would enable a socialist plan of production that satisfies human and environmental needs, not the profit drive of the super-rich 1%.
For now, the strike is mainly composed of directly employed workers. It’s important for the union to reach out to agency workers to join the action.
You have to admire this very low-paid, hard-working workforce. Hull Socialist Party and Hull Trade Union Council will continue to show solidarity every step of the way.
Please send messages of support to:
- [email protected], GMB strike committee
- [email protected], GMB official
- Cheques to GMB Hull Branch No 7, c/o Shaune Clarkson, Karro Food Strike Committee, GMB Offices, 62 Russell Street, Hull HU2 9AD
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 6 August 2019 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.