Hovis workers anger rises over Zero hours contracts

Hundreds of bakers at the Hovis bakery in Wigan are on strike for seven days against zero-hour contracts and casualisation. They are demanding the company negotiate seriously, instead of ignoring existing agreements and imposing huge attacks on pay and conditions.

Members of the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union walked out today at 6pm and are mounting strong pickets on all three site entrances. Further 7-day strikes will run from the 11th-18th September, and 25th September until 2nd October.

Hovis is reducing hours, meaning pay cuts. They are using agency staff after making permanent staff redundant, meaning pay cuts. Agency staff are paid less anyway, with many on zero-hour “as and when” contracts, meaning even more pay cuts. While many workers currently live nearby, use of agencies could mean loss of local jobs as desperate low-paid agency workers are brought in from further afield. The loss in earnings is huge. Hourly pay is being cut from £13 to £8.60. Workers are losing £10,000 a year, while Hovis bosses are on six-digit salaries!

Geoff Atkinson of the Bfawu told me: “This is about fighting for our members to keep local jobs local, a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work – not zero-hour contracts and reducing the amount paying them.” A press statement is on the Bfawu websiteHovis Aug Strike

On this first day of strike action, three picket lines festooned in placards and banners and flags made a clear statement that this workforce will fight. Hovis management have brought in strike-breakers from elsewhere; apparently paying for 35 of them to stay at the nearby Mercure hotel. According to Mercure’s website, a one-night stay costs £65-£84.95. Clearly Hovis have an agenda of destroying workers’ wages and casualising the majority of the jobs, and are far more willing to splash out on achieving that than pay their workforce a decent wage.

Workers at the Wigan factory held the line against previous attempts by Hovis bosses to attack terms and conditions. Now they deserve full support from trade unionists and the wider public. Strikers are asking for local supporters to visit their picket lines and for everyone to send messages of support. Visit the pickets at 60 Cale Lane, Aspull, Wigan, WN2 1HD. Send messages of support via the Bfawu website www.bfawu.org or to [email protected]

Report by Hugh Caffrey NSSN North West