HUNDREDS of Wigan warehouse jobs are under threat.
Workers and their union chiefs are locked in a major battle over the future of 500-plus staff at the Asda-Walmart ambient distribution centre (ADC) in Marus Bridge.
Bosses at the now American-owned supermarket giant have warned that they are to amalgamate the work for Wigan (plus Skelmersdale and Warrington) depots into one giant – and yet-to-be-built – “super centre” which will be one of the biggest distribution hubs in Europe.
Workers at Wigan, plus their team of GMB shop stewards, are now pinning all their hopes on the neighbouring former Burtonwood airbase being chosen as the new site, because it would be “realistically” commutable on wage scales.
But they have now been warned that company chiefs are giving serious thought to a rival location in the West Midlands which also boasts good motorway links to the rest of the country.
Sources at the massive centre off Wheatlea Road say a decision will be taken in the next six weeks.
Its believed that bosses, who recently signed a ground-breaking recognition agreement with the GMB to collectively represent Asda-Walmart distribution workers, are seeking productivity guarantees from “pickers” before deciding on which alternative to commit to groundworks.
But whichever new site is chosen, the depot itself – which is almost 20 years old – will close in October 2013 under current plans.
Asda-Walmart declined to answer any specific questions about the future of the Wheatlea ADC.
A spokesman would only confirm: “No final decisions have been made about the site.
“In terms of discussions around the future of the site, Asda is a growing business and our Wigan depot has now reached capacity.
“With this in mind we’re looking at a number of potential new sites in the North West.”
While a spokesman for the general workers’ union GMB said that talks were at a “delicate” stage.
But they were determined to win the best possible outcome for their Wigan, Skelmersdale and Warrington members.
They forcibly denied claims by a caller to the Wigan Evening Post who said that the Walsall “nuclear option” had already been chosen and announced as such.
A workforce source at Asda-Walmart Wheatlea ADC said today: “We all want them to successfully compete with Tesco, which is the aim of all this, but not at the expense of all our jobs going to the Black Country.
“This new site will employ 1,200 people, so there will be a net increase in jobs, if we can keep it up here.”