Press Release from Geoff Atkinson, BFAWU No.4 Organising Regional Secretary
Second week of strike action at Hovis (Premier Foods), Wigan 17/09/13
With the second week of strikes at the Hovis bakery in Wigan coming to an end, the company have informed the BFAWU that they have no intention of settling the dispute.
They went on to say that they are happy for the strikes to continue and stated that the dispute will not result in any review of their use of third party zero hours contracts.
A senior director at the company has even written a letter to their highly paid strike breakers, praising their ‘Dunkirk spirit’ and making it clear that the industrial action being taken by their hard working, long serving workforce is not going to change the company’s policy of exploitation one iota.
The support that our members at Hovis have received from Labour MPs and organisations from across the country has been most welcome.
A number of fellow trade unions, members of the public and other organisations have made donations to the BFAWU strike fund and have visited the official picket line to congratulate the workers for the stand they are taking.
We have also received countless messages of support, many of which have been sent by agency workers who have suffered due to zero hours contracts.
Many of them have told us that they don’t even get paid holidays or sick pay and have their job opportunities severely limited.
The workers at Hovis are determined to bring about a change of mind at the site. The local management team have indicated that they don’t particularly wish to use agency labour at Hovis, Wigan, as the existing workforce has always been flexible, but it appears that senior management within Premier Foods have made a clear decision to use zero hour contract agency workers regardless in order to keep labour costs down.
In recent interviews, the company’s representatives have been unable to give any convincing need for their use; indeed they have admitted that from a planning point of view, they can’t even predict bakery manning levels for a period of a mere forty-eight hours, so it seems strange that they feel the need to engage in this dispute when they are clearly lacking the appropriate management skills to plan production effectively.
The BFAWU feels that the company has deliberately provoked the dispute for its own purposes. However, it is obvious that they have been ill-prepared for the public backlash they are now receiving.
The general public have been appalled at the company’s behaviour, with significant numbers going as far as to boycott not only Hovis products, but Premier Foods’ products as a whole.
Rather than flexing their muscles and ignoring public opinion, the company should be making every effort to resolve this dispute before it damages its already tarnished reputation any further.
The third week of strike action is due to commence at 6.00am on Wednesday, September 28th.