A major retail employer will close its Wigan warehouse amid an air of great uncertainty next week - with the loss of 300 jobs.
The final day of work at Sports Direct’s packing facility on Challenge Way in the Martland Mill area of the town will be next Friday, June 14, trade unions have said.
However, those on the shopfloor say they are still being given mixed messages about this from the company and have also hit out at plans to stagger their final payments over a couple of months.
The GMB trade union, which has been involved in negotiations, has promised to support the workers while Wigan MP Lisa Nandy has blasted the company founded by controversial tycoon Mike Ashley for its attitude to the process.
Employees, speaking on condition of anonymity, told he Wigan Post they may not get their severance pay until the end of July and their P45 will not necessarily come through at the end of next week if that is when the warehouse closes.
This has been strongly criticised, with workers saying it has left them unable to move forward since the bombshell of the facility’s axeing was dropped in April.
One employee said: “The union has said we will be finishing next Friday but we’ve not had anything in writing to say that.
“HR sent letters about one-to-ones this week and that just said no final decision had been made. I emailed HR and they said they had no further information.
“We’re also getting our money in dribs and drabs. We’re getting a month’s pay at the end of June, our redundancy in the first week of July and our severance pay only at the end of July.
We might have to wait until then for our P45s and you need that to sign on or get another job.
“We’ve been treated really badly. We’ve been left in limbo for eight weeks. We were told it was shutting and then nothing.
“What they are doing with the payments is really wrong. If there is an issue or the money is wrong the warehouse is going to be closed. The date we leave we should get paid everything together and that should be it.”
Ms Nandy did not hold back her criticism of Sports Direct for the way it has handled the warehouse closure.
Prior to the announcement of a shutting date last week worried workers, who asked not to be identified, had also contacted the Wigan Post to speak of the toll the uncertainty over their future was having.
Employees at the packing facility said they had been effectively left in limbo since the bombshell of the company leaving the borough was dropped in mid-April because the lack of a finishing date meant they had been unable to apply for other jobs.
And Ms Nandy, who has been involved in the wrangling over the warehouse shutting down, did not hold back in her condemnation of Sports Direct.Her words strongly suggest one of the sticking points in discussions has been settling fair terms for the workforce, which is made up of both in-house Sports Direct employees and agency staff.
“It seems, however, that the company is deeply uninterested in supporting its own workforce through this difficult time.
“I will continue to push for this, and encourage any constituents who are affected to get in touch if they need support.
The union itself, however, was far more conciliatory in tone following its meetings with the company, though it did not disguise the size of the blow to Wigan’s economy that the loss of so many jobs represents.
It also suggests some of those working in the warehoue have been helped into alternative jobs and has vowed to continue supporting the rest who are still looking for other work.
GMB organiser Sandra Blight said: “After several meetings with the company Sports Direct has finally confirmed they will be closing their Wigan operation on June 14.
“This is devastating news for our members, but GMB has fought hard to secure new local jobs for dozens of members.
“We will carry on working with Sports Direct and other employers to make sure everyone left high and dry but this business decision has alternative employment.”
Some of the employees at the packing facility have now gone through this process twice, having originally worked for JJB Sports in similar roles before Sports Direct took over.
It is understood the firm has activated a clause in the 10-year lease it took out on the building in 2014 which enables it to depart after half that time.