WIGAN’S economy has suffered a blow after food giant Heinz confirmed 71 jobs have been lost at its Kitt Green processing plant.
The company said the staff are in the process of leaving the firm under a voluntary redundancy scheme.
We’ve been laid off for three weeks and we don’t know if we’re coming or going. We’ve still got bills to pay and this is messing about with people’s lives
Heinz said the job losses were due to several parts of the production line being automated to boost efficiency and said the redundancies covered non-management operations employees and several distribution centre employees based at the main factory in the borough.
However, there was also some confusion around the situation at Heinz as union Unite said it believed the voluntary redundancy package was on hold but the company said the departures are happening now.
The global food giant also drew complaints from angry workers employed on temporary contracts through agencies, saying around 30 of them have been given no work in Kitt Green for more than three weeks.
A whistleblower, who asked not to be named, said there was a negative atmosphere at the factory and called for a fairer deal for those working at Heinz long term but not signed up to permanent contracts.
He said: “Even the full timers are having to go without their breaks and there’s no morale at the place, it’s non-existent.
“It’s the temporary workers who are suffering. Basically we have to wait for a phone call to see if there is any work.
“We’ve been laid off for three weeks and we don’t know if we’re coming or going. We’ve still got bills to pay and this is messing about with people’s lives.
“All we want to do is work. Even those on full-time contracts with guaranteed money are saying how unfair it is.”
However, both Unite and the company said the layoff of temporary staff happens every year around March as the company comes to the end of the soup season which sees the highest demand.
A Heinz spokesman said: “As part of our ongoing drive to increase competitiveness and improve efficiency we are investing in projects to automate the movement of finished goods from the production line and also to further optimize our can-making operations.
“In parallel we also recently secured funding for a number of voluntary redundancies for non-management operations employees as well as factory based non-management distribution centre employees. This has resulted in a reduction of 71 roles through voluntary redundancy at the site.
“Temporary staff make a valuable contribution to our Kitt Green operations such as during periods of high demand.
“As we come out of the soup season the need for temporary staff changes as we shift our production requirements.”