Representativeness of the European social partner organisations: Manufacture of sugar – United Kingdom

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 09 July 2008



About
Country:
United Kingdom
Author:
James Arrowsmith
Institution:

The aim of this representativeness study is to identify the respective national and supranational actors (i.e. trade unions and employer organisations) in the field of industrial relations in the sugar manufacturing sector in the United Kingdom. In order to determine their relative importance in the sector’s industrial relations, this study will, in particular, focus on their representational quality as well as on their role in collective bargaining.

Introduction

The UK consumes around 2.25 million tonnes of sugar per year. There are two sugar manufacturers: British Sugar (owned by Associated British Foods), the sole processor of the UK sugar beet crop (over 7 million tonnes) and Tate & Lyle, which imports and refines raw cane sugar. British Sugar now has four plants (two were closed in 2006) and 5,000 beet suppliers. The company has about 60% of the domestic market and exports worldwide. Tate & Lyle’s refinery in Silvertown, London, is now the UK’s only cane sugar refinery, processing over 1 million tonnes per year at up to 160 tonnes per hour, the largest amount in the world. An agreement on UK accession to the European Community allows 1.3 million tonnes of sugar (of which 90% goes to Tate & Lyle for refining) to be imported into the EU each year from developing Commonwealth countries at guaranteed minimum prices and free of any EU levy. Tate & Lyle supply roughly 40% of the UK domestic market and are major exporters of white sugar. There are no employer associations in the sector. The general unions GMB and the T&G (now called Unite following merger with Amicus on 1 May 2007) are recognised.

1. Sectoral properties

  1994 2005**
Number of companies 2 2
Aggregate employment* Not available Not available
Male employment* Not available Not available
Female employment* Not available Not available
Aggregate employees 2,350 1,450
Male employees Not available Not available
Female employees Not available Not available
Aggregate sectoral employment as a % of total employment in the economy Not available Not available
Aggregate sectoral employees as a % of the total number of employees in the economy 0.01% 0.005%

* employees plus self-employed persons and agency workers

** or most recent data

There are no government statistics available for this sector. National statistics are only readily available for manufacturing and broad subsectors, although there are a couple of reports that look at the impact on the sugar beet supply chain for the proposed European-level changes to sugar beet subsidies currently under review. About 350,000 people are employed in the entire food and drink manufacturing sector in the UK (14% of manufacturing as a whole).

The data have thus been directly supplied by the two employers – Tate & Lyle and British Sugar. Tate & Lyle employs about 1,000 employees. The total permanent labour force at the four British Sugar factories is approximately 450 employees. An estimated 13,000 jobs are created directly and indirectly by the non-manufacturing activities associated with the beet sugar supply chain.

2. The sector’s unions and employer associations

This section includes the following unions and employer associations:

1. unions which are party to sector-related collective bargaining.

The following general, multi-sector unions have recognition agreements in British Sugar:

  • GMB: Represents civil air transport, security, AA, aerospace, defence, clothing, textiles, food production and distribution, retail, hotel, catering, chemicals and process, construction, building supplies, furniture and timber, local government, NHS, care, education, engineering, offshore, shipbuilding, energy and utilities.The GMB also has a recognition agreement in Tate & Lyle.
  • Transport and General Workers’ Union (T&G): Represents administrative, clerical, technical and supervisory employees; agriculture; building, construction and civil engineering; chemical, oil and rubber manufacture; civil air transport; docks and waterways; food, drink and tobacco; general workers; passenger services; power and engineering; public services; road transport commercial; textiles; vehicle building and automotive; and the voluntary sector.
  • Amicus: In addition, Amicus represents some workers in the sector. Amicus is the largest manufacturing union in the UK, with over one million members in the public and private sectors. On 1 May 2007, Amicus and the T&G merged to form Unite, with about 2 million members.

2. unions which are a member of the sector-related European Union Federation (i.e. EFFAT – European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions)

  • Amicus, GMB and T&G are all members of EFFAT.

3. employer associations which are a party to sector-related collective bargaining

  • There are no employer associations in the sector.

4. employer associations which are a member of the sector-related European Employer Federation (i.e. CEFS – European Committee of Sugar Manufacturers)

2a Data on the unions

  • GMB
  • T&G
  • Amicus

2a.1 Type of membership (voluntary vs. compulsory)

  • GMB: Membership is voluntary.
  • T&G: Membership is voluntary.
  • Amicus: Membership is voluntary.

2a.2 Formal demarcation of membership domain (e.g. blue-collar workers, private-sector workers, food production employees, etc.)

  • GMB: Not available.
  • T&G: Not available.
  • Amicus: Pre-merger, Amicus represented approximately 20,000 members in the food, drink and tobacco industries (FD&T), mainly in the engineering and maintenance function with a significant presence in manufacturing/processing, management and research. The demarcation of membership is predominantly skilled craft workers in the manufacturing side of FD&T. Amicus does have some membership in the retail side, but not in significant numbers. There is also a significant number of members in the transport distribution side of FD&T manufacturers.

2a.3 Number of union members (i.e. the total number of members of the union as a whole)

  • GMB: 600,106 members.
  • T&G: 835, 351 members. Unite has around 2 million members.
  • Amicus: Amicus was the largest manufacturing union in the UK, with over one million members in the public and private sectors. However, as mentioned above, Amicus and T&G members voted on 1 May 2007 to merge to create Britain and Ireland's newest and biggest trade union (Unite), with about 2 million members.

2a.4 Number of union members in the sector

  • GMB: Not available.
  • T&G: The food, drink and tobacco (FD&T) trade group within the T&G has over 90,000 members. There are no figures available for sugar manufacturing alone.
  • Amicus: There will be approximately 100,000 joint members once the unions are fully merged in the FD&T sector of Unite, but there are no figures available for sugar manufacturing specifically.

2a.5 Female union members as a percentage of total union membership

  • GMB: Not available.
  • T&G: Two-thirds of the FD&T group are men. There are no figures available for sugar manufacturing alone.
  • Amicus: Not available.

2a.6 Density with regard to the union domain (see 2a.2)

  • GMB: Not available.
  • T&G: Not available.
  • Amicus: Not available.

2a.7 Density of the union with regard to the sector

  • GMB: Not available.
  • T&G: Not available.
  • Amicus: Not available.

2a.8 Does the union conclude collective agreements?

  • GMB: Yes.
  • T&G: Yes.
  • Amicus: Yes.

2a.9 For each association, list their affiliation to higher-level national, European and international interest associations (including cross-sectoral associations)

  • GMB: Affiliated to the following associations:

European Committee of Food, Catering & Allied Workers' Unions (EFFAT)

European Federation for Retired and Elderly Pensioners (FERPA)

European Federation of Building & Woodworkers (EFBWW)

European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU)

European Federation of Textiles, Clothing and Leather (ETUF-TCL)

European Metalworkers' Federation (EMF)

European Mine, Chemical and Energy Workers Federation (EMCEF)

UNI-EUROPA

International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF)

International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM)

Public Services International (PSI)

International Federation of Building & Woodworkers (IFBWW)

International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF)

International Textile, Garment & Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF)

International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF)

Global Union UNI

  • T&G: Affiliated to the following associations:

European Mine, Chemical and Energy Federation (EMCEF)

European Transport Workers Federation (ETWF)

European Federation of Trade Unions in the Food, Agriculture and Tourism Sectors (EFFAT)

European Federation of Public Service Unions (EFPSU)

European Metal Workers Federation (EMF)

European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW)

International Transport Workers Federation (ITF)

International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF)

Union Network International (UNI)

International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF)

Public Services International (PSI)

International Federation of Building and Woodworkers (IFBW)

International Textile, Leather and Garment Workers' Federation (ITLGW)

International Federation of Chemical and Energy and Mineworkers (ICEM)

  • Amicus: Affiliated to the following associations:

European Mine, Chemical and Energy Federation (EMCEF)

European Transport Workers Federation (ETWF)

European Federation of Trade Unions in the Food, Agriculture and Tourism Sectors (EFFAT)

European Federation of Public Service Unions (EFPSU)

European Metal Workers Federation (EMF)

European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW)

Union Network Europa

Union Network International

International Metalworkers Federation (IMF)

International Textile, Garment, and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF)

International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM)

International Federation of Building and Woodworkers (IFBWW)

Public Services International (PSI)

International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF)

International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF)

2b Data on the employer associations

There are no employer associations in the sugar production sector.

2b.1 Type of membership (voluntary vs. compulsory)

Not applicable.

2b.2 Formal demarcation of membership domain (e.g. SMEs, small-scale crafts/industry, food-production industry, etc.)

Not applicable.

2b.3 Number of member companies (i.e. the total number of members of the association as a whole)

Not applicable.

2b.4 Number of member companies in the sector

Not applicable.

2b.5 Number of employees working in member companies (i.e. the total number of the association as a whole)

Not applicable.

2b.6 Number of employees working in member companies in the sector

Not applicable.

2b.7 Density of the association in terms of companies with regard to their domain (see 2b.2)

Not applicable.

2b.8 Density of the association in terms of companies with regard to the sector

Not applicable.

2b.9 Density in terms of employees represented with regard to their domain (see 2b.2)

Not applicable.

2b.10 Density in terms of employees represented with regard to the sector

Not applicable.

2b.11 Does the employer association conclude collective agreements?

Not applicable.

2b.12 For each association, list their affiliation to higher-level national, European and international interest associations (including the cross-sectoral associations).

Not applicable.

3. Inter-associational relationships

3.1. Please list all unions covered by this study whose domains overlap.

TGWU, GMB and Amicus.

3.2. Do rivalries and competition exist among the unions, concerning the right to conclude collective agreements and to be consulted in public policy formulation and implementation?

The TGWU and Amicus merged on 1 May 2007. The TGWU and the GMB unions have worked closely together in response to threats of closure by British Sugar.

3.3. If yes, are certain unions excluded from these rights?

No.

3.4. Same question for employer associations as 3.1.

Not applicable.

3.5. Same question for employer associations as 3.2.

Not applicable.

3.6. Same question for employer associations as 3.3.

Not applicable.

4. The system of collective bargaining

4.1. Estimate the sector’s rate of collective bargaining coverage (i.e. the ratio of the number of employees covered by any kind of collective agreement to the total number of employees in the sector).

Not available.

4.2. Estimate the relative importance of multi-employer agreements and of single-employer agreements as a percentage of the total number of employees covered. (Multi-employer bargaining is defined as being conducted by an employer association on behalf of the employer side. In the case of single-employer bargaining, it is the company or its subunit(s) which is the party to the agreement. This includes the cases where two or more companies jointly negotiate an agreement.)

There are no multi-employer agreements in this sector. Bargaining takes place at employer level.

4.2.1. Is there a practice of extending multi-employer agreements to employers who are not affiliated to the signatory employer associations?

No.

4.2.2. If there is a practice of extending collective agreements, is this practice pervasive or rather limited and exceptional?

Not applicable.

4.3. List all sector-related multi-employer wage agreements* valid in 2005 (or most recent data), including for each agreement information on the signatory parties and the purview of the agreement in terms of branches, types of employees and territory covered

Not applicable.

5. Formulation and implementation of sector-specific public policies

5.1. Are the sector’s employer associations and unions usually consulted by the authorities in sector-specific matters? If yes, which associations?

There is no formal mechanism for consulting employers and trade unions on sector-specific matters in the UK. Instead, the Government calls for interested parties to express their views on particular issues, often by presenting oral or written evidence to a Government committee. In relation to the sugar industry, a recent report from the House of Lords (2005-06), entitled Too much or too little? Changes to the EU Sugar Regime, was published based on evidence collected in this way (www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldselect/ldeucom/80/80i.pdf).

Representations were received from the following parties (amongst others): Dr Mark Carr, Chief Executive, British Sugar plc; Mr Chris Carter, Corporate Affairs Director, British Sugar plc; Mr Mark White, Chief Executive, Tate & Lyle Sugars Europe; Ms Clare Wenner, Political Adviser, British Sugar plc; Mr Nick Wells, Vice-Chairman, Sugar, National Farmers' Union (NFU). No evidence, however, was presented by the GMB, the TGWU or by Amicus.

5.2. Do tripartite bodies dealing with sector-specific issues exist? If yes, please indicate their domain of activity (for instance, health and safety, equal opportunities, labour market, social security and pensions etc.), their origin (agreement/statutory) and the interest organisations having representatives in them:

There is a Sector Skills Council for the food and drink manufacturing sector as a whole. Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) are employer-led, independent organisations that cover specific sectors across the UK. The four key goals of SSCs are to reduce skills gaps and shortages; to improve productivity, business and public service performance; to increase opportunities to boost the skills and productivity of everyone in the sector's workforce; and to improve learning supply, including apprenticeships, higher education and National Occupational Standards (NOS). SSCs provide a forum for discussion between employers and trade unions to discuss current and future sector skill requirements and to agree proposals on how these can best be met.

Sector-specific public policies – Not applicable.

6. Statutory regulations of representativeness

6.1. In the case of the unions, do statutory regulations exist which establish criteria of representativeness which a union must meet, so as to be entitled to conclude collective agreements? If yes, please briefly illustrate these rules and list the organisations which meet them.

No.

6.2. In the case of the unions, do statutory regulations exist which establish criteria of representativeness which a union must meet, so as to be entitled to be consulted in matters of public policy and to participate in tripartite bodies? If yes, please briefly illustrate these rules and list the organisations which meet them.

No.

6.3. Are elections for a certain representational body (e.g. works councils) established as criteria for union representativeness? If yes, please report the most recent electoral outcome for the sector.

No.

6.4. Same question for employer associations as 6.1.

Not applicable.

6.5. Same question for employer associations as 6.2.

Not applicable.

6.6. Are elections for a certain representational body established as criteria for the representativeness of employer associations? If yes, please report the most recent outcome for the sector.

Not applicable.

7. Commentary

The manufacturing unions are in a fairly weak position in the UK. For example, the announcement in August 2006 by British Sugar of the closure of two of its plants, leading to 102 job losses at York and 128 at Allscott, was ‘reluctantly accepted’ by the two unions. The unions had pressed the National Farmers' Union (NFU) (which is an employer association, not a trade union) for a joint approach to the company, after the local NFU branches lent support. Instead, the NFU became involved in separate negotiations, agreeing compensation for farmers not to grow beet and allowing them to sell on their contracts to farmers in the areas where beet factories will remain. Without wider support, the joint trades unions were unable to put forward alternative proposals to keep the two sites open and had to focus instead on redundancy terms.

James Arrowsmith, IRRU, University of Warwick

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