Hovis workers strike over zero contract hours
Hundreds of workers at Hovis's bakery in Wigan have voted to take strike action over the introduction of agency staff on zero-hours contracts in the wake of redundancies and cuts to pay and hours.
The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) said agency workers had been brought in almost immediately after the redundancy of nearly 30 workers in April and that those workers were on contracts which did not specify set working hours and gave limited guarantees on conditions. Members of the union make up 230 of the 357 employees at the Hovis bakery.
On the strike vote at Hovis, the BFAWU regional secretary Geoff Atkinson said: "Workers see the current situation as unacceptable and are determined not to allow the company to set precedents, undermine current terms and conditions, create a two-tier workforce."
The union fears that Hovis's owner, Premier Foods, plans to use agency workers to help take on work that is likely to fall to the Wigan bakery after the closure of Hovis bakeries in Birmingham and London. Premier cut 900 jobs and scaled back production at Hovis after losing a contract with the Co-op. The company said it hoped to head off strike action by coming to a "reasonable agreement with staff". It said it wanted to use agency staff in Wigan to cope with fluctuations in demand.
In August 2013 it was revealed that up to a million workers in the UK are employed on zero-hours contracts. Of the 600 employers surveyed by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, 27% used zero-hours contracts, with most employers planning to increase or maintain their permanent or agency staff over the next year.
TUC general secretary, Frances O'Grady, said: "With so many jobseekers chasing too few vacancies, zero-hours contracts have become the easy option for employers keen to keep their costs down as they take advantage of people's desperation to find work.The experience of those actually employed in this manner is hardly a cause for celebration. Uncertain hours and fluctuating pay levels all make for a situation where it becomes almost impossible for individuals to budget and can cause havoc with childcare arrangements. Ministers trumpet this as evidence of flexibility in our labour market, but for most working people the reality is insecurity for them and their families."
38 Degrees is calling on people to sign its petition calling on Vince Cable to investigate zero contract hours, demanding a proper consultation and laws to protect vulnerable employees.
Unite the Union is also running a campaign against zero contract hours and asking people to share their stories.
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