Strike ballot for bakery union

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

STRIKE action again looms for workers at a famous Wigan bakery after crisis talks between unions and bosses have broken down.

Members of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers (BFAWU) at Premier Foods bakery on Cale Lane are set to hold a ballot for strike action next week.

Negotiations between bosses at what is better known as the Hovis bakery and BFAWU representatives over the use of agency staff have not produced an agreement as was initially hoped.

Regional BFAWU secretary Geoff Atkinson said: “We put forward suggestions to avoid the use of agency staff but they were rejected.

“This is a clear message that the intention of the Hovis management team is to drive down terms and conditions and replace permanent committed employees with cheap zero-hour contracts and agency labour.

“Our aim is to protect permanent employment in the area - having just seen the closure of one bread production plant in the area - this has got to be our goal. There are currently five members of the production team at risk of redundancy two of which are on notice to leave the business in October of this year.”

Premier Foods has maintained their right to use agency staff, stating it is “standard procedure in the food production industry” and also commented that “there is no threat or detriment to the current Wigan workforce as a result of this proposal (to use agency staff).”

A recent ballot of workers to canvas opinion on the use of agency staff resulted in a 15 to one ratio against the company proposals to use them, Mr Atkinson also claimed.

He said: “On Friday afternoon the company rang our branch secretary to inform him that despite the result, they would be going ahead and bringing agency staff in all across the site.”

The ballot for strike action will start on August 6 and will continue for a two week period.

The results will be considered before any further developments.

A spokesman for Premier Foods declined to comment on the recent developments but an earlier company statement said: “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.

“We have been talking to BFAWU about this for some time and we will continue to talk to them to try to come to a satisfactory outcome.”