UK own-label supplier Bakkavor said today (17 January) that some 179 employees will leave the company's produce site at Bourne.

The announcement of a mix of voluntary and compulsory redundancies is the culmination of what became a bitter dispute between Bakkavor and union officials representing staff at Bourne.

In October, Bakkavor announced plans to cut over 300 jobs at the produce facility, proposals that led to worker protests. Following talks with union officials, Bakkavor's plans changed and the company said in December that it would instead reduce the number of staff at the site by 175.

Today's announcement, which said 144 hourly-paid employees were taking voluntary redundancy, while 35 staff would be made redundant on a compulsory basis, marked the end of a 90-day consultation period with workers and union officials.

Following the discussions, Bakkavor said it had agreed not to cut pay rates for existing workers and to take the pay of new workers up to "existing permanent rates". The company said it had also set up an "enhanced" redundancy scheme and that it had agreed to pay overtime working with premia after an employee works their contracted hours.

"Our aim has been to sustain the business in the long term against some difficult trading conditions in the food sector and we are grateful to our staff for their continued patience and understanding," Bakkavor said.

Unite national officer Jennie Formby, who at the height of the dispute had claimed "a catalogue of management incompetence over several years" had led to the cuts, admitted the final agreement did not go as far as the union wanted.

However, she said Unite "welcomed" the changes Bakkavor' management had made from its original proposals.

"Whilst disappointed not to have been able to move as far as we would have wished, we are pleased to have been able to minimise the impact both on our existing members and on future employees," Formby said.

"We now trust that the management team at Bakkavor will deliver on developing and growing the business back into profit, and Unite is committed to continuing our positive relationship with the company so that we can in turn deliver further for our member."