Threat of strike at bakery

British Bakeries Wigan Bakery, Cale Lane, New Springs
British Bakeries Wigan Bakery, Cale Lane, New Springs

A WEEK-long strike is set to start before the end of the month after workers at a famous Wigan bakery voted in favour of industrial action.

A dispute over the use of agency staff caused crisis talks between bosses at Premier Foods and members of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers (BFAWU).

Strike action is now planned for next week at what is better known as the Hovis bakery on Cale Lane after a member ballot ended on Tuesday.

Regional BFAWU secretary Geoff Atkinson told the Evening Post: “The ballot result was accepted to take strike action by 120 for and 39 against.

“I have therefore served notice to the company that we intend to start the strike at 6am on Wednesday 28 August until September 4.

“I have also included as part of that notice that we are willing to meet to try and resolve the issue.”

The use of agency staff against a backdrop of job losses among permanent staff has been cited by disgruntled workers as their main grievance.

Mr Atkinson, a veteran of 22 years working for Premier Foods, also said staff have been hit with a wage decrease while bosses have brought in temporary staff on “as and when” contracts.

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

A spokesman said: “120 staff have voted in favour of strike action out of more than 350 staff that work on the site.

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

A previous Premier Foods statement said: “To deal with fluctuations in demand, we now want to introduce the option of agency labour to Wigan.

“There is no threat or detriment to the current Wigan workforce as a result of this proposal. Using agencies is widespread across the food industry and nothing unusual.”

The Cale Lane site produces Hovis brand bread and crumpets as well as home brand bread for major supermarket chains.

Premier Foods has endured a turbulent time in recent years as two plants – in Greenford near Wembley and Birmingham – are set to close with a loss of nearly 900 jobs.

BFAWU representatives had been in talks with employment advisors ACAS in attempts to broker a deal with their bosses although the discussions have broken down.

Mr Atkinson said: “Our aim as a trade union is to protect permanent employment in the area. There are currently five members of the production team at risk of redundancy.

“There is a clear message that the intention of management is to drive down terms and conditions and replace permanent employees with cheap zero-hour contracts.”