SHOCKED Wigan bakery workers have staged a mass meeting after learning their plant could close.
More than 160 staff are facing a worrying future after bosses announced that long established Rathbone’s in Newtown is under threat because it is “land-locked” and would not be able to expand to increase production after an increase in demand for fresh bread.
Supermarket giant Morrisons is planning to transfer production to a refurbished and enlarged sister plant in Wakefield and is pledging that as many staff as possible can relocate across the Pennines to West Yorkshire.
The gathering follows a pledge of support from Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and the council’s cabinet member for the economy and regeneration Coun David Molyneux to work together with Morrisons to “minimise the impact” of the axe.
Consultations with the main production staff union, the Bakery, Food and Allied Workers (BFAWU), is now scheduled to start on June 1.
BFAWU organising regional secretary Geoff Atkinson said the meeting allowed staff to discuss the company’s announcement and for the union to go through what they thought about the options that were put forward by Morrison’s.
He added: “The staff at site were a bit surprised at what is going on but understood that the company can’t expand at Wigan.
“We agreed that we need to enter the consultation process to get a better understanding of the proposals on other employment and relocation the first meeting is planned for June 1. And we will be holding regular branch meetings for the members of the BFAWU.”
Morrisons’ offer for staff to transfer across to the sister Rathbones bakery in West Yorkshire has been attacked as “wholly unrealistic” by Wigan councillor Chris Ready, who was shop steward at the bakery for a decade.
He said: “When I was at Rathbone’s I remember being sent on a trip to that bakery in Wakefield to look at their set up and you are talking about an hour and a half trip and that is with a good run.
“So you could easily be talking about expecting a man living on Norley estate to undertake a two-hour journey each way for a job that pays a pittance of a wage a little over the minimum wage.”
In a statement Wm Morrison Supermarkets said: “We are proposing to move production to our Wakefield factory to ensure that the company can continue to support the growth of the business.
“There is no room for expansion at the Wigan site and it therefore makes sense to concentrate growth on the Wakefield factory.”