Press Release re: Strike Action at Hovis (Premier Foods), Wigan Update
The BFAWU dispute at Hovis (Premier Foods), Wigan was called due to the company’s decision to bring in agency workers and zero hours contracts within forty-eight hours of making thirty workers redundant. This took place despite reaching an agreement to reduce hours on site in order to avoid the need for redundancies in the first place.
Since the industrial action began on August 28th, the company’s behaviour has been erratic at best. We have reason to believe that they hired local ‘heavies’ to intimidate striking BFAWU members, which is deplorable conduct if proven to be true. In addition to this, the company has apparently refused to allow employees to take part in a charity bike ride in order to raise money for the MacMillan Cancer Support Charity. Thankfully, the Union’s solicitors for the North West area (Walker, Smith, Way) have stepped in and agreed to donate the amount of money that would have been raised by these employees on their behalf. Again, the company’s behaviour is hard to fathom.
One of the more curious aspects of Hovis’ response to the action taken by BFAWU members was their flat denial of the use of zero hours contracts in the media before later admitting that they do use them after all. They then claimed that the Union had asked for zero hours contracts to be put in place which is of course, absolute nonsense. The food industry has always used temporary workers; in fact most of the people employed in twelve week temporary positions at Hovis in the past have usually found their way to permanent employment with the company. The Union believes that this process was a good way of ensuring that the company was able to meet its business needs as well as retain skills. The ‘as and whens’ as they are called at Wigan had always been guaranteed work of at least thirty-nine hours a week and received the same pay as those they worked alongside with. Whilst this was not the preferred option, it did at least secure employment contracts to individuals.
During the week long action, the Union met with the company, whereby they confirmed that they had removed the remaining zero hours contracts that they had on site and have given/offered the employees concerned, permanent roles with Hovis. This is a small victory for the Union and we would like to welcome the twenty-four new employees who now have full contracts and thus, equal pay and employment rights; rights that they wouldn’t have, had it not been for the efforts of BFAWU members at that site. However, the real issue of agency worker exploitation is still a long way from being resolved. The company’s desire to widen the use of agency labour will merely amount to zero hours contracts being supplied by a third party and does not seek to address the hours or earnings that have been lost by our members in order to reduce the need for redundancies which led to this dispute in the first place.
Agency workers and those on zero hours contracts don’t have the same employment rights as standard, full-time employees and our members at Hovis, Wigan believe that is unfair. They believe that they should not only be on the same rates of pay, but enjoy the same terms and conditions. The BFAWU’s position therefore remains clear; this issue can be settled by the company agreeing to pay all workers the recognised rates of pay and guaranteeing them the same employment rights. As before, the Union is more than prepared to talk to the company in order to resolve this dispute. The way forward is to engage in meaningful negotiation, not cheap, petty and vindictive behaviour.
As the situation is still unresolved, action by BFAWU members is set to continue with week long strikes taking place on the following dates:
6.00am on September 11th 2013 until 6.00am on September 18th 2013
6.00am on September 25th 2013 until 6.00am on October 2nd 2013
The BFAWU and its members at Hovis, Wigan would like to thank members of the public and local communities as well as Members of Parliament from various UK constituencies along with fellow Trade Unions for their overwhelming support during this dispute.
(BFAWU No.4 Organising Regional Secretary)
Tel: 07834930002; email email@example.com
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