Workers should have a voice as part of the UK government’s new Food and Drink Sector Council to stop it “becoming an exclusive talking shop for big business”, the GMB Union has said.
The Council, whose aim is to boost productivity and make the industry more resilient, sustainable and competitive, met for the first time in early February but has no representation from trade unions or from civil society.
The food manufacturing sector is heavily represented through the likes of Nestle, Premier Foods and Dale Farm; while Sainsbury’s and Co-op Food provide the voice of the retail sector.
Foodservice is also under-represented among the 16 member organisations with just Merlin Entertainments involved in the sale of food out-of-home.
The GMB is calling on the Council to ensure that trade unions and workers are invited to be involved in the future work of the group. "Without a true voice for the workers on the Food and Drink Sector Council, it seriously risks becoming an exclusive talking shop for big business,” said Eamon O’Hearn, GMB national officer.
The Council used its inaugural meeting to agree priorities for the next 12 months, including a focus on boosting skills, agricultural productivity, improving the nation’s nutrition and building on emerging proposals to establish a sector deal.
It plans to set up expert working groups to develop recommendations for industry and government on each of its priorities.