Mass protest at the Hovis bakery in Wigan on 18 September blocked the delivery trucks from leaving the plant for hours, for the second time in three days. Bakers are on strike against Hovis bosses’ attempts to casualise the workforce and drive down pay, conditions and job security. Hovis tried to enforce zero-hour contracts through directly-employed staff. The first 7-day strike led to that being withdrawn and those affected given full-time permanent jobs. The current 7-day strike is because now Hovis wants to use agency staff, which the bakers’ Bfawu union suspects are simply zero-hour contracts by the back door.
Despite a heavy police presence, the 2am protest delayed the first truck for well over an hour. By 4.30am, one picket explained “Usually they’d all be out ages ago. That truck there is at least an hour late, probably more”. Over 30 trucks were due to go out within a few minutes of 3am. Three hours later, and less than a third had left the bakery!
While there was plenty of pushing and shoving by the police, there was no threat to use police dogs, unlike the protest two days earlier. Another worker told me, “Monday’s protest led to Tesco’s turning away the delivery lorries. If they did that then, there’s a good chance they’ll do that this morning too.”
Hovis is spending £thousands and £thousands on a small army of scab managers and scab lorry-drivers. Despite that, the workforce remains resolute and strike action is clearly biting. The bakers will strike again from 6am on Weds 25 September for 7 days. Further action is planned beyond that, because as a striker said “The company isn’t talking to us, and doesn’t seem interested in talking to us”, and so the fight continues. Further solidarity protest in Wigan and beyond may well be required to back up the bakers’ battle.
MESSAGES OF SUPPORT AND STRIKE FUND DONATIONS URGENTLY NEEDED:
Send messages of support via the BFAWU website www.bfawu.org or to [email protected] Invite a striker to address your union or student society.
· Send donations to the strike fund payable to BFAWU, to BFAWU No.4 Regional Office, 348 Chester Rd, Cornbrook, Manchester, M16 9EZ
· Visit the picket line at Hovis (Premier Foods) Bakery, Cale Lane, Aspull, Wigan, WN2 1HD
By Hugh Caffrey – NW NSSN