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Labor Strike at Jacobs Douwe Egberts Escalated to the Next Level

Labor Strike at Jacobs Douwe Egberts Escalated to the Next Level

May 27 - 2021

Coffee Geography Magazine


Over 300 workers turned out with the strike at the Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE) coffee plant in Banbury, Oxfordshire, in U.K since last Saturday. The call by the union is brewing more tension between the workers and JDE as fire and rehire strike is called again from yesterday May 26, 2021.

The company’s employees are taking strike action over the plans to dismiss staff and force them to sign new contract that would see them lose up to £12,000 a year for some workers.

The workers have conducted a continuous overtime ban since May 1, as well holding two 24hrs strikes and several demonstrations outside JDE’s Ruscote Avenue site in Banbury.

 The severity of the industrial action has now increased with a 72hrs strike that began at 6am yesterday morning and the looming prospect of more damaging strikes over the summer.

The union said that JDE “need to wake up and smell the coffee over the damage its reviled fire and rehire policy is causing”.

jde strike

Jacobs Douwe Egberts is a Dutch company that owns numerous beverage brands (coffee, tea and hot chocolate). It was formed in 2015 following the merger of the coffee division of Mondelez International with Douwe Egberts.

The company has its origins in De Witte Os, a general grocery shop that Egbert Douwes established in 1753 in Joure, West Frisia, the Netherlands. In 1780, the company was transferred to his eldest son Douwe Egberts. It developed into a company dealing in coffee, tea, and tobacco. By 1925 it had changed its name to Douwe Egberts (as in Douwe, the son of Egbert), and had introduced the red seal as its logo.

Douwe Egberts logo

In 1948, the company began to sell its products in Belgium, followed by France, Spain and Denmark. It founded a new holding company, Douwe Egberts Koninklijke ("Royal Douwe Egberts") in 1968, and a year later took over the Dutch coffee manufacturer Kanis & Gunnink.

The company expanded through Europe, acquiring other tea, coffee and tobacco companies, such as the UK tea distributor Horniman's Tea.

In 1978 Douwe Egberts was taken over by Consolidated Foods Corporation, later the Sara Lee Corporation. In 1989, Douwe Egberts purchased Van Nelle, its main Dutch competitor in coffee, tea and tobacco. It sold its tobacco interests, including Van Nelle and Drum rolling tobacco, to Imperial Tobacco in 1998.

In 2001, the company collaborated with Philips to produce the Senseo coffee maker. The following year it established the Douwe Egberts Foundation, an independent entity that initiates and manages coffee and tea projects in countries of origin.

Douwe Egberts sued the province of Groningen in 2007 over the introduction of rules stating that all coffee supplied in the province must meet Fair trade criteria set by Stichting Max Havelaar. Courts ruled in favour of the province of Groningen.

With profits from the coffee division under threat from rivals such as Nestlé and Kraft, and being unable to find a buyer, in 2012 Sara Lee split off the coffee division into D.E Master Blenders 1753, offering share-holders one share in the new company for each main share they held.The main Sara Lee company changed its name to Hillshire Brands.

In 2012 Douwe Egberts became an independent Dutch company again, trading under the name D.E Master Blenders 1753 NV.

In 2013, the German investor group JAB Holding Company made an offer to purchase D.E Master Blenders 1753 for $9.8 billion. The company appointed a new management and delisted the company from the Euronext stock market. D.E. Master Blenders 1753 later bought Norway's Kaffehuset Friele coffee manufacturer.

In May 2014 the company announced plans to merge with the coffee division of American food conglomerate Mondelez International. The merger received approval from the European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager on 5 May 2015, subject to several conditions.These included a requirement that Merrild and Carte Noire brands were sold (now owned by competitor Luigi LavazzaS.p.A.), and that the Senseo brand in Austria was licensed to a competitor.

Jacobs Douwe Egberts merged with Peet's Coffee, another coffee business owned by JAB Holding, to form JDE Peet's which would own the Peet's chain, as well as brands including: Jacobs Coffee, Douwe Egberts, Moccona, Kenco and Pickwick, and brewing systems including Senseo and Tassimo. The company was listed in Amsterdam in May 2020.

The current round of strike is reported in the U.K. local branch of the company where the loss of production resulting from the dispute amounted to estimated 600tn of coffee. As of 2021 the UK is no longer bound to follow EU labor law nor employment because of the Brexit.

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