Bakery strike ‘averted’

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

STRIKE action could be averted after disgruntled workers at a famous Wigan bakery agreed to extend their negotiation period with bosses.

Staff at Premier Foods, New Springs – better known as the Hovis bakery – had planned a ballot this week to discuss potential industrial action over the use of agency staff.

But union representatives have called off the ballot while they take advice from independent employment advisors sparking hopes an agreement can be made regarding pay rates for temporary staff.

Geoff Atkinson, of the Bakery, Food and Allied Workers’ Union, told the Evening Post that union representatives will be talking with mediators ACAS later this week.

He said: “Premier Foods maintain they will use agency staff in an emergency but we are hopeful that an agreement can be made regarding rates of pay for temporary workers – those we call ‘as and whens’.

“The use of agency staff is just a cost-cutting exercise by Premier Foods.

“There are plenty of temporary staff willing to work shifts. I myself started as a temporary staff member before going full time and worked there for 22 years.

“Generations of staff have worked at Hovis in Wigan for years. But we have had job losses recently and agency workers brought in not long after.

“Hopefully a strike can be avoided and an agreement reached after our discussions with ACAS.”

The site suffered several job losses in April due to what bosses attributed to the company losing a major contract.

Premier Foods declined to comment on the result of their meeting with BFAWU representatives this week.

But they maintain the use of agency staff is standard procedure in the food production industry.

A spokesman told the Evening Post last week: “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 agency is widespread across the food industry and nothing unusual.”

Last year Premier closed two sites and cut 900 jobs in London and Birmingham, almost 10 per cent of their workforce.