Melton Mowbray is the place to be if pork pies tickle your palate but PETER FROST has a cautionary tale that should put you off some of the brands – at least for the time being. Find out why.
Tuesday is market day in Melton Mowbray and it makes a great day out. We like to use it for our big weekly food shop as often as possible. Fresher food at better than supermarket prices with less food miles and a lot less packaging and it is much more fun.
As well as a wonderful farmer’s market there is a traditional livestock market with cows, sheep and often more exotic beasts on sale in the ring as well as either antiques or junk depending on your taste.
That’s just in the dedicated livestock marketplace which is just a stone’s throw away from the town where the streets are also stuffed full of all kinds of stalls on Tuesday’s market day — dating since 1324.
The stalls and many of the town’s shops reflect Leicestershire’s prime reputation for producing some of England’s finest foods.
Some of Melton’s small family butchers are delightfully old fashioned. My favourite doesn’t even raise an eyebrow when I ask him to bone and pouch a local shoulder of lamb so that I can stuff it with rice, apricots, pinenuts, pistachios, pomegranate seeds and spices. In fact he asked for the recipe.
And yes, of course, while I’m there I buy one of his delicious home-made pork pies of the type that made Melton Mowbray famous.
One shop I don’t go into is Dickinson and Morris’s picturesque premises with its quaint sign “Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe” painted across its half-timbered frontage.
I keep clear because I know that behind that picture postcard shopfront lurks a multi-million food conglomerate. A huge company that despite making £41 million profit last year producing all sorts of well-known brands of food for supermarkets like Tesco is trying to get an even bigger share of the pie at the expense of their 5,000 employees.
Truly a case of greedy bosses wanting to have their pie and eat it.
The company is Leicestershire-based food giant Samworth Brothers, the owners of Dickinson and Morris Melton Mowbray pork pies, maker of Ginsters’ Cornish pasties, Soreen Malt Loaf and more than a dozen other well-known food brands as well as being the largest manufacturer of supermarket ready-made sandwiches.
Samworth Brothers also have a long history of funding the Conservative Party. Although there is no truth in the evil rumour that it was them that supplied David Cameron’s notorious pig head.
Millionaires David and Mark Samworth — both company directors — handed over £half a million to the Tories between 2010 and March last year. Mark Samworth attended one of Dodgy Dave’s dinner parties early this year. These dinners require a minimum payment of £50,000 to Tory funds.
No wonder the brothers run a decidedly anti-trade union business.
Since the introduction of the new living wage in April this year Samworth have cut paid breaks and have ditched overtime rates for working unsociable hours. They want to make their workers fund the living wage themselves.
Most shop-floor bakery staff were earning just over £6.70 an hour before this April, so the introduction of the national living wage should have made quite a difference for them — but Samworth, like so many others, has found an opportunity to save money — to actually cut pay.
Despite a so-called consultation process, it seems that double pay for working on Sundays will be phased out by 2019, so while staff on the national minimum wage earned £13.78 an hour on a Sunday last month, by 2019 they will earn just £9.
Extra pay for nights, Saturdays and overtime are also being slashed.
Workers at Samworth’s many food processing plants responded in their hundreds by joining the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) packing out a series of huge public meetings when the restructuring was first announced.
Kumaran Bose was one of the leading union organisers at the Samworth Brothers main Melton Mowbray site — he spoke out against the pay restructuring and was sacked on Friday, three weeks ago.
Kumaran has worked for the company for 12 years with a faultless work record but since the dispute began he has been subjected to a severe campaign of bullying from his managers.
In fact Kumaran’s (speaking at the Baker’s Union Conference below) only crime has been his outstanding success in convincing more than half of the workers in his factory to join the Bakers Union.
What his managers particularly disliked was his brave decision to stand up for his rights and refuse to accept that he and his fellow workers should be treated so appallingly and that their families should be denied a decent standard of living.
When Kumaran lodged a formal grievance against Samworth management at Kettleby Foods the company management team wanted revenge. They took disciplinary action against Kumaran, accusing him of bullying his employers.
Despite the fact that the majority of people at Kumaran’s factory are now members of the BFAWU the company still refuses to recognise the union at the site.
A formal appeal against this decision has now been lodged with the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). Hopefully, this will lead to the management team being forced by law to grant formal recognition to the BFAWU.
In the meantime, the managers continue to use every trick in the book to block their workers’ right to join a union.
Samworth workers although horrified and disappointed by the sacking of their workmate have refused to be bullied or intimidated and are recruiting yet more members to the union.
Leicester Labour MPs Jon Ashworth and Liz Kendall have both backed the BFAWU and demanded answers in relation to the treatment of union members at Samworth Brothers.
George Atwall from the BFAWU told us “The union is picking up lots of members. We’ve had people standing on gates campaigning. We’ve done mass meetings, and we’ve built up teams working inside now.
“Samworth are desperately trying to stop people joining the union. One of the managers has been scaremongering,” George said. “They said if the union gets in, Samworth Brothers will close the plant.”
“We are calling on all fair minded people to support our call for the reinstatement of Kumaran Bose. Please email Samworth Brothers bosses at Paul.Davey@Bradgate-Bakery.co.uk and demand the reinstatement of Kumaran Bose.”
This article first appeared in the Morning Star 24 June 2016.