AMBALA, a food company based in Stratford, east London, faces legal action over claims that it mistreated workers during a pay dispute earlier this year.
The Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) has instructed lawyers to prepare a case against Ambala Foods in Bridgewater Road.
Staff at the factory, which produces hand-made Indian sweets, started a series of one-day weekly walkouts in April in protest at a two-year pay freeze.
Many workers earn just above the minimum wage for skilled, labour-intensive work. The dispute soured when two part-time workers said they were sacked for taking part in the strikes and the company claimed non-striking staff suffered harassment.
TGWU officer Bill Hodge said lawyers were preparing a case against the company over terms of employment and matters arising from the dispute.
The company claims that it is willing to negotiate with the TGWU. It says that workers are paid on average £7 an hour and that no one is paid less than the Government minimum wage. It also claims that it cannot afford to increase wages.
“If we increased the pay then the company would not make any profit. If the company’s earnings and productivity improved then wages, which currently run at 35 per cent of total revenue would improve,” said one company spokesperson.
Bill Hodge said: “There are a number of areas where we believe that the employer has acted unlawfully in the treatment of members of the TGWU union employed at Ambala.
“We have instructed lawyers to examine matters closely and make an application to the employment tribunal on behalf of those affected.
“This company has some of the worst employment processes I have experienced in the last 20 years. However, previous attempts to secure the interests of our members have been to no avail. Therefore we are obliged to take the final course of action available to us.”
Dinner ladies victory
THE GMB union has won sizable compensation for 17 dinner ladies employed by the London Borough of Brent in an out of court settlement against school meals private contractors Scolarest and Caterhouse Limited.
The women called on their trade union GMB for help when Brent’s schools meals contract was awarded to Scholarest and Caterhouse private contractors and the women’s right to keep their jobs while transferring to their employment contracts to the new employers was questioned by the private contractors.
Mary Turner, GMB National President and former dinner lady, will be presenting the cheque to the women on Thursday, along with GMB Organiser Tony Warr outside Brent town hall.
Anita Vadgama of Thompsons solicitors took the case on for GMB members.
GMB national president Mary Turner said: “GMB has won justice for these women who provide a vital service to the children and parents of Brent and who’s right to continue to do so was questioned by private contractors watching out for their profit margins.”