Factory staff in strike threat

Heinz National Distribution Centre
Heinz National Distribution Centre
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WIGAN’S biggest employer could be hit by a walk out from key delivery staff.

Workers at Wincanton - which runs the Heinz National Distribution Centre (NDC) a stones throw from their Kitt Green plant - are fighting plans to close their final salary pension scheme.

After a breakdown in talks, more than 70 staff based at the Martland Mill complex are being asked to consider what industrial action they would be prepared to take.

Any stoppage at the giant NDC would hit Heinz hard, disrupting their supplies to shops and supermarket shelves around the country.

There are fears it could even lead to some short-time working at the site - Europe’s biggest canned food plant - if the stoppage is significant. Heinz declined to comment, but in a joint statement, the four unions representing Wincanton workers, GMB, Usdaw, Unite and the URTU, said that it is fighting to protect the final salary pension scheme, or create an alternative pension scheme for members that would provide a reasonable future”on retirement.

They claim that while Wincanton will save £20m a year by closing the pension scheme.

The unions argue that Wincanton should consider “their moral and social responsibilty” to workers and provide them with a secure future after they have left the company.

Their statement says: “We have already informed the company that, due to its refusal to discuss the wider issues and that no genuine reasonable alternative scheme has been agreed, there is a formal national trade dispute in existence that can only be resolved by reaching a negotiated agreement. Unfortunately, the company have been unwilling to enter meaningful discussion to reach an agreement and as such it is now time to consider what steps need to be taken.

“In the coming weeks we will be consulting with our members to establish what action they will be prepared to take to demonstrate to the company just how important their future is.

“We intended to show the company that our members do not accept a second rate pension and will do what is necessary to protect their future.”

A Wincanton spokesperson said: “Following a full and thorough three-month-long consultation period which closed earlier this month a full range of proposals from the company, employees and the trades unions were debated, amended and reshaped. Wincanton has since taken the decision to proceed with its proposal and close the final salary pension scheme to future accrual from March 31. All accrued benefits will be preserved.”