Kellogg’s will return to the negotiating table with striking plant workers this week despite earlier threatening to replace them all.
The US cereal giant is set to resume talks with union leaders on Tuesday over the fate of 1,400 workers in Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee who have been on strike since 5 October.
The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers’ and Grain Millers’ Union (BCTGM) objects to what it describes as a two-tier wage system in which about 30 per cent of Kellogg’s workers get worse pay and benefits because they are classed as temporary.
The strike is part of a wave of labour actions that has swept America this year, as workers burned out by their experience of the pandemic and emboldened by the so-called “great resignation.”
Amazon, Starbucks, farm equipment builder John Deere, Doritos maker Frito-Lay, Oreos and Ritz cracker maker Nabisco, the Kaiser Health system and the University of California have all been affected, with an estimated 25,000 workers on strike by 11 November.
Tuesday’s talks will take place one week after Kellogg's claimed it had "no choice" but to begin hiring permanent replacements for the strikers, having already brought in temporary substitutes.
Kellogg's spokesperson Kris Bahner said at the time: "We recognise the hardship that this prolonged strike represents for our employees.”
“After 15 negotiations sessions in 2021 – and no proposals put to membership for a vote – we are left with no choice but to best serve the short- and long-term interests of our customers and consumers by moving to the next phase of our contingency plans."
The company said it had offered to move temporary workers with four or more years of service to permanent contracts but that the union had rejected that deal without a vote.
However, a BCTGM organiser in Memphis told Reuters: "We kept giving them counter offers, but after 14 hours we felt like we [are] only negotiating with ourselves."