Bakery workers return

Picket Line at Hovis bakery, Cale Lane
Picket Line at Hovis bakery, Cale Lane

STRIKING workers at a Wigan bakery have returned to work this week but unresolved issues with bosses mean further action is planned.

Members of the Bakery Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) completed a week of industrial action on Tuesday over the use of agency staff and zero-hours contracts.

The stand-off with Premier Foods - the company that owns the New Springs site - has attracted national coverage as a stand-out case about workers’ rights.

BFAWU regional secretary Geoff Atkinson told the Evening Post that the union’s planned strikes later this month will still go ahead.

He said: “The issue of the use of agency workers is still no closer to being resolved.

“We have made it clear that we can’t trust the management team on site to follow any agreed process to avoid the use of agency staff.

“We have asked that the company include a penalty if these guidelines are not followed to give our members faith to call off any further action.

“This was refused so we will return to work this week but will begin our second week of action on September 11.”

The Cale Lane bakery makes Hovis brand bread and crumpets and home brand loaves for major supermarkets.

Premier Foods bosses have maintained that the use of agency staff is widespread in the food production industry and is used to cover seasonal surges in demand.

And ahead of last week’s strike, the company confirmed that the remaining staff on zero-hours terms had been upgraded to full contracts.

Zero-hours staff have limited rights and are required to work “as and when”, often at short notice.

A war of words escalated at the beginning of last week’s strike as BFAWU reiterated their stance that permanent staff had been made redundant in recent months and agency staff brought in to replace them.

While Premier Foods accused the union of denouncing zero-hours contracts in public but privately asking for them to get reinstated.

A Premier Food statement said: “The need for the use of agency labour is understood and accepted by the unions at all our other sites and is only a relatively small proportion of our overall workforce. It is not, and has never been, our intention to replace full time staff with agency labour.”