Row at Wigan's Heinz factory after agency staff 'overlooked' for permanent jobs

The Heinz factory in Kitt Green
The Heinz factory in Kitt Green

A dispute has erupted at one of Wigan’s best-known employers after a group of long-serving employees claimed they were frozen out of new full-time roles.

Heinz, at Kitt Green, has begun the process of recruiting for a number of permanent operator positions and have been interviewing scores of current workers who are there on agency contracts.

However, a whistleblower said some staff who have been at the plant for years but are not directly employed by Heinz were not even considered for the interviews.

This has sparked a furious response, with employees claiming they feel undervalued and saying the company seems to feel they are happy to remain as agency staff when they would love a more secure contract.

The whistleblower claimed conversations have taken place with Unite the Union over the process of recruiting the new staff.

However, Heinz said everything had been done in a way agreed with union stewards and Unite did not send a comment when approached by the Wigan Observer.

The whistleblower said: “There is a group of us who have been temporary workers for years. Some of us have done 18 years.

“We think we should have got priority for these new jobs due to the length of our collective service.

“Yet some of us long-term temps have been told we’re not even getting an interview. It’s totally unfair.

“If they didn’t want us we wouldn’t have been there for 14 years or more. Surely we deserve more respect than this. It’s just wrong.

“The lads who have been here years and came in expecting to do their normal job and then were told they weren’t getting an interview were totally naffed off, as you can imagine.

“We just need a voice to highlight this because we’ve been put on the backburner again. We’ve done years as agency workers but even when you’re getting quite a bit of work that can change at the drop of a hat.

“There does seem to be some sort of system but no-one can get to the bottom of it.”

The firm spoke of its delight at offering more full-time roles and defended the way it has gone about recruitment.

A spokesperson for Heinz said: “We are pleased to be actively recruiting permanent operator roles across our core shifts and from over 120 applications are interviewing almost 80 temporary employees.

“The selection criteria agreed with senior union stewards have been in place for many years which have resulted in the company recruiting operators with the right aptitude and mindset and whom are a good fit with our culture and ways of working.”