At a meeting of Cherwell District Full Council last night, a Labour motion in support of workers at Jacob Douwe Egberts in Banbury was rejected out of hand by the ruling Conservative majority.
Councillor Barry Richards put forward a motion calling for Cherwell to support the roughly 300 workers at the plant, who are in dispute with the company over “Fire and Rehire” attempts.
The motion also called on MPs covering the district, particularly the Banbury constituency MP, Conservative Victoria Prentis, to support a private members bill by Labour MP Barry Gardiner that aims to ban the practice, and sought to encourage the council to avoid procuring services from firms associated with Fire and Rehire, as a clear rejection of this unscrupulous practice.
Despite only one Conservative councillor (Barry Wood, Leader of the Council and Conservative group) speaking against the motion, the Conservative group voted against it en masse, seeing it fall 13 votes to 19.
When I introduced this motion, I asked the leader of this council if he would second it. Because I genuinely felt that there should be cross party support on the issue of fire and rehire. They declined which I think is a tragedy when this is an issue that affects many people not only in Banbury, but throughout Cherwell and the country.
Labour Councillor Barry Richards
A similar motion was unanimously passed by Banbury Town Council on 22 June 2021. Conservative Councillor Tony Ilott; who sits on both councils, apparently changed changed his mind on the issue between sessions – or at least was unwilling to break with the Cherwell Conservative group despite his own views.
Fire and rehire is just wrong. I would like to ask Conservative members, some of whom I suspect might be feeling pretty queasy about supporting voting against this motion, to put your hand up and support us because there’s absolutely no way you can go back to your constituents and say to them you did the right thing by failing to pass this motion. That would have sent out a very clear message on fire and rehire.
Labour Councillor Perran Moon
The High Steward of Banbury, former MP Sir Tony Baldry, has himself spoken out against Fire and Rehire:
Today whatever the legal niceties, there will again be many in Banbury who will sense that there is a very bad smell coming from the coffee plant if the employers there are intent on dismissing people working there and seeking to rehire them on worse conditions and poorer terms of pay .
Who of any of us would want that to happen to ourselves and it shouldn’t happen to any Banburian.
Former Banbury MP, Conservative Sir Tony Baldry
Unfortunately his successor Victoria Prentis MP has declined to take any stance in support of her constituents, saying only that she hopes that “an agreement can be reached which everyone is happy with”. Given the huge imbalance of negotiating power in the dispute and the lack of support from both their local District Council and their MP, JDE workers affected may need more than vague platitudes.