WIGAN’S economy suffered another blow this week after it was announced the long-planned closure of a supermarket depot is finally about to begin.
Staff at the Asda distribution centre in Marus Bridge will begin being transferred to a new depot in Warrington next month.
The closure of the centre on the Wheatlea Industrial Estate, which employs around 400 people, is expected to be completed by July 2016.
News of the depot’s impending closure was revealed by union GMB, which previously represented the workers to ensure jobs remained in the North West rather than departing to a depot in Tamworth in 2013.
The union said the supermarket is hoping to avoid large-scale Wigan job losses and it is believed workers have all been offered either a resettlement package or voluntary redundancy.
A GMB spokesman said: “As a union we welcome the move to the new site and the new opportunities for our members.
“It secures and safeguards employment for the forseeable future.”
One member of staff, who did not wish to be named, said: “The writing has been on the wall for the Wigan depot for a long time. At one point it looked like we would either have to move to Tamworth or give up on working for the company.
“By securing the jobs at Warrington it at least gave a lot of us the chance to commute, although for Wigan folk it will obviously involve extra time and expense commuting there every day. In the end it was the least worst option.”
The move out of the borough to a multi-million pound super centre in Warrington has been on the cards for several years and Asda-Walmart had initially hoped it would happen in 2014.
At one point it was feared hundreds of Wiganers would be put out of work due to a potential move to a site in Staffordshire, but GMB agreed a ground-breaking recognition agreement with Asda-Walmart to negotiate on behalf of workers to keep jobs in the region.
The entire process should be complete by summer, though the timescale remains flexible.
It is believed up to around 550 staff from two depots will eventually be relocated to the new site in Warrington.
Asda said it is currently in a consultation process and would be unable to comment until it is complete.
The borough has suffered several jobs blows in recent weeks.
Following a consultation with staff, betting giant Betfred is pressing ahead with the closure of its call centre due to most folk now betting online.
And Hovis is also looking to axe more jobs at its new Springs site.