A MAJOR Carlisle employer is entering talks with a union over proposals to change shift patterns.

Cavaghan and Gray, a factory that makes food for businesses such as Heinz and Marks and Spencer, is run by parent group 2 Sisters Food Group (2SFG), which has issued letters to its workers informing them of its plans.

In a letter seen by the News & Star, 2SFG said that there is a continuous ‘out of cycle level that is unacceptable’, and it is having a financial impact on the business.

It has moved some staff to a 'four-on, four-off' shift pattern (working four 12-hour shifts a week), but it is now seeking to expand this shift pattern to all operational workers.

This is to ensure the company ‘meets customer expectations in the future’, according to 2SFG.

2SFG told staff it has opened a ‘consultation period’ of 45 days with colleagues ‘with a view to moving all remaining operational colleagues to the four-on four-off shift pattern’, the letter said.

“We have committed to work with USDAW [the union] and shopfloor representatives to work towards a solution,” the letter concluded.

However, one factory worker voiced their concern that the proposals may be unsustainable for the factory, which employs roughly 1,100 people. They said these workers are a mix of agency and full-time staff, 'many of whom' are parents relying on flexible shift patterns to raise their children.

They suggested a 'large number of people will find it impossible' to work these shifts, and as many workers come from the same household, if they lose their jobs it could have serious knock-on effects.

“It’s minimum wage for the majority of people starting up now - people just don’t want to work there,” they said, claiming that vacancies are posted online currently but are struggling to be filled.

If the plans went ahead, they added that it could be 'devastating'.

At the time of writing, 2SFG is advertising nine positions for the factory.

Lisa Collins, area organiser for USDAW, the union representing some of the workers, said 2SFG’s approach was disputed when it was initially proposed, hence the consultation.

“We are pleased that management has now listened to us and will enter into a collective consultation with the union," Ms Collins said.

“We will interrogate the business case for their proposal while seeking safeguards and assurances for staff.

“In the meantime, we are providing our members with the support, advice and representation they need.

“Any Usdaw member with concerns should speak to their workplace union rep.”

A spokesman for 2SFG, said: "We’re proposing to make some changes to our employee shift patterns in order to align with the evolving needs of our customers and the end consumer.

"In order to ensure we continue to deliver the right products at the right time to our customer base, we are consulting with colleagues around how we could amend some shift patterns to ensure we can meet the changing needs of our customer and at the same time maximise efficiency in the factory.

"We are hopeful some colleagues will be attracted by our proposed changes, and we are committed to helping all others best adapt to our new shift patterns.

"We will be better placed to provide a fuller update on the outcome of these proposals once all consultations have taken place."