Bakery strike goes ahead

WORKERS at a famous Wigan bakery are today on strike after a dispute over the use of agency staff could not be resolved.

Disgruntled staff at the Hovis bakery plan to form picket lines at the three entrances to the Cale Lane site, the strike is planned to last for a week.

British Bakeries Wigan Bakery, Cale Lane, New Springs

British Bakeries Wigan Bakery, Cale Lane, New Springs

Parent company Premier Foods has maintained that the use of agency staff is normal practice in the food production industry.

But members of the Bakery, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU) view it as a “cost-cutting exercise” after staff have taken a reduction in hours and pay to avoid redundancies.

BFAWU regional secretary Geoff Atkinson told the Evening Post that there had been no contact from the company since the union informed them of their members’ intention to strike.

He said: “The strike will take place as scheduled from Wednesday morning.

“Since I sent the ballot result and notice for the strike I have not heard anything back so I’m not hopeful of a last minute resolution.”

A ballot on whether to take strike action was completed last week with 120 union members voting in favour of industrial action compared to 39 against.

A spokesman for Premier Foods, which produces Hovis brand bread and crumpets, told the Evening Post last week: “120 staff have voted in favour out of more than 350 staff that work on that site.

“Strike action is not in the larger interests of the staff and we hope a resolution can be found.”

A statement issued two months ago said their use of agency staff was of “no threat or detriment to the current Wigan workforce.”

Mr Atkinson explained that the union’s stance on the dispute has been formed with the backdrop of full-time staff being made redundant while agency staff on “as and when” contracts have been recruited.

He said: “The intention of the Hovis management team is to drive down terms and conditions and replace permanent committed employees with cheap zero-hour contracts and agency labour.

“Our members in Wigan have not taken this decision lightly. They have no desire to lose pay. However, they see the current situation as unacceptable and are determined not to allow the company to set precedents and undermine current terms and conditions.”

The strike is scheduled to continue until Wednesday September 4 with further action planned.