Workers at a Premier Foods plc Hovis facility in Wigan have voted in favour of strike action after unions said the company reneged on long standing recognition agreements.

The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) said today (22 August) it balloted its members following the introduction of agency staff on “zero-hours” contracts following redundancies and cuts to pay and hours.

The union said employees at the bakery north of Manchester had previously agreed to a reduction in hours and pay in a bid to reduce the need for redundancies. However, after what it says were “long and protracted discussions” with Premier, the company decided to proceed with job losses.

“Once the redundancies had been made, the company decided to renege on long standing recognition agreements and make up the ensuing staff shortfall with agency labour, with many being utilised on an as-and-when basis, in other words; zero-hour contracts,” the BFAWU said.

“Since then, we have attempted to resolve this situation with the company, but to no avail. Ultimately, the union took the painful decision to ballot its members at the Wigan site in order to seek a mandate for industrial action. The result was overwhelmingly in favour of strike action against the company.”

Around 120 of the site’s 357 employees have voted for strike action, which is planned for: 28 August to 4 September; 11 to 18 September; and 25 September to 2 October.

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The union said further branch meetings will be held to extend the action unless Premier comes to a “satisfactory agreement” with members on the withdrawal of agency labour from the site.

A spokesperson for Premier Foods told just-food the strike action is “not in the long-term interests” of the site and said it remains “hopeful” of finding a solution.

“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. Using agency is widespread across the food industry and nothing unusual,” the spokesperson said.

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