Some 220 Hovis workers walked out at Premier Foods’ Wigan bakery last Wednesday in the first of three week-long strikes against job cuts and zero-hour contracts.
The members of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union are picketing in shifts joined by solidarity delegations from Unison, Unite and PCS unions and Wigan TUC.
One worker told Socialist Worker, “We’re not having it. They always want something from us—pensions, wages, conditions. It’s time to draw a line”.
A machine operator agreed. “We’ve bent over backwards for them, agreed to fewer hours and even a paycut to save jobs because they said profits were falling.
“Then we found out they got agency workers in to make up the hours. But they won’t break us, they‘re making us more determined.”
Solidarity collections in Wigan town centre and at the football stadium raised £235 last Saturday. Other workers in Unison and GMB collected money at work for the pickets.
And Premier Foods are being hit hard. The largest machine in the factory isn’t working—it normally makes 7,000 loaves an hour. Another machine normally run by three workers making over 3,000 loaves an hour is being run by 18 managers.
Postal workers refused to cross the picket line to deliver mail.
At a packed meeting last Friday strikers unanimously rejected an offer including some overtime from management.
But they are throwing money at scabs to break the strike. Managers have been drafted in from as far as Belfast and redundant Hovis workers from Birmingham with work guaranteed for six weeks.
Agency workers have joined the picket line.
Now bosses want Bradford Hovis factory to speed up production to make up the loss of Wigan bread. Workers at the Bradford factory are discussing an overtime ban so they don’t take up the extra work.
Freddie Ralphs, senior transport steward at Asda for the GMB and Unite unions came with solidarity from Asda distribution workers. “I’ve come to support fellow trade unionists on strike against zero-hour contracts, because if it happens at Premier Foods it could happen at Asda distribution. “But they need more support and students should come here too.”
Another striker agreed. “It’s not just us, other companies are going through this. We’re doing this for the future.”
This strike was set to end 6am Wednesday and the next strike begins at 6am next Wednesday.
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