Workers deserve a fair slice of the pie – Unionise Samworth Brothers Campaign


“The Peace & Justice Project has been working with the Baker’s Union to launch a campaign for fair pay, better conditions and trade union recognition at all their sites across the country”

By Lukasz Bemka

Outside the Marks & Spencer store in Leicester City Centre, a young man walks up to my colleague at our street stall, rolls up his sleeve and says “This is what happened to me at Samworth Brothers”. His arm shows a large burn scar, measuring slightly bigger than a golf ball, as he explains that this was caused by a chemical solution used for cleaning at Samworth sites. He complains about a lack of health and safety training and provisions, including not having the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job.

This is the reality for many workers at Samworth Brothers, who supply sandwiches for Tesco, pastries for Marks & Spencers, and own the Ginsters and Soreen brands and who last year had revenues of £1.16bn. The Peace & Justice Project has been working with the Baker’s Union to launch a campaign for fair pay, better conditions and trade union recognition at all their sites across the country, the majority of which are in Leicestershire. 

Workers have told us, at the gates and through our worker survey, that they feel they have no voice “because no-one cares about what we say or want” according to one, and another was told to “wind my neck in” when they tried raising concerns to their team leader. This type of culture shouldn’t exist anywhere in the workplace – especially not in a factory which produces food for the nation and has dangerous equipment, machinery and chemicals in it. Indeed, the worker who came and spoke to us at our street stall didn’t get a day off to go to the hospital – he had to take one of his annual leave days to recover from the injury. “It’s worse than Amazon” says his friend, who had previously worked at Samworth Brothers.   

At least half a dozen people who we spoke to at the street stall work, or had worked at Samworth Brothers and many more knew someone who did. That’s why the Unionise Samworth Brothers Campaign is so important: they are one of the region’s biggest employers and they set the standards for other employers here and in the food manufacturing sector more widely. If they are allowed to get away with unfair practices, everyone suffers.

The company is wholly privately owned by the Samworth family, who have donated over £650,000 to the Conservative Party between 2002 – 2015, according to The Morning Star. They came under widespread criticism in 2016 for cutting overtime, weekend pay and bonuses after the introduction of the National Living Wage that year, meaning that any increase in wages would essentially be taken away elsewhere by the company. That same year they fired Kumaran Bose, who had been working at the site as a Team Leader for 13 years with an unblemished record, for union organising.

More recently, they came under scrutiny after receiving £13 million of taxpayers’ money for furlough over two years during the pandemic shortly after which they extracted £15 million from the company in dividends whilst also cutting paid breaks and profit-share for their employees. 

More and more workers are seeing the hypocrisy of Samworth Brothers bosses who drive Teslas past their employees waiting for a bus to take them back on the one-hour journey from Melton Mowbray to Leicester.

That’s why they’re joining our campaign for fair pay, better conditions and trade union recognition.

You can support the campaign by signing the petition and donating to help fund leaflets, social media ads and hosting events. I’d also like to say a massive thank you to Jeremy Corbyn and the Peace & Justice Project for organising this campaign and standing with workers at Samworth Brothers and the food industry.

If the trade union movement is to grow, its workers in these industries that we need to organise. Please join our calls for Samworth Brothers bosses to do the right thing and recognise the Baker’s Union and ultimately, ensure that their workers get a fair slice of the pie! 

Featured image: Ian Hodson, BFAWU President and Cllr. Gary O’Donnel join Samworth Brothers’ workers demonstrating on the gates at Melton Foods in February 2023. Photo credit: Unionise Samworth Brothers

Leave a Reply