A few years ago Hovis bakers treated us to a most memorable TV advert depicting its 122 year history. Remember it?
The street-wise boy purchasing a loaf of bread and making his way home not only through the streets but also through time.
He meets up with suffragettes, soldiers marching to WW1, then the blitz, VE day, the world cup and the miners strike to the present day.
Like most adverts it was aimed at increasing sales and hence profits. Well, Hovis’s aims have not changed but, as the advert demonstrates, times have!
With price increases outstripping wages over the last few years and people tightening their belts, increasing company sales and profits is difficult or well nigh impossible. So, when Hovis resorted to a good old fashioned ‘screw’ the workers strategy reminiscent of the nineteenth century, their workers decided to fight back.
The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union BFAWU succinct press statement explains what the dispute is about:
“Staff at the Hovis (Premier Foods) bakery in Wigan had already reduced their hours and subsequently, their pay in a bid to reduce the need for redundancies. However, after long and protracted discussions with the Union, the company decided to proceed with job losses. However, 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.
Zero hours contracts compel workers to stand-by ready to be called in to work from home when needed and left unpaid otherwise. The Adel & Wharfedale Labour party has called for such contracts to be replaced with flexible contracts which preserve workers’ rights and bring certainty to the lives of employees and their families.
The company’s unilateral decision to bring in agency workers led directly to over two hundred members of the Bakers’ Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) at the Hovis plant planning and carrying out a series of strikes over the last month.
Supplies of Hovis products to supermarkets have been badly affected. Deliveries of crumpets have been reduced to zero at times because Hovis’s Wigan plant is their only bakery in Britain producing them.
Commenting, Wigan’s Labour MP Lisa Nandy, [pictured] said, “We are worried about the number of people who are trapped in these contracts and can’t plan their lives or predict their income from day to day.”
Lisa has put down an Early Day Motion in parliament supporting the workers.
She said: “It’s welcome that the company has got rid of their zero hour contracts but with the use of agency labour it allows the company to bring people in on those deals who aren’t employed by the company but by an outside agency.
“The point workers made to me when I went down to the picket line is that they don’t want to be working alongside colleagues who are being paid less and have fewer rights for doing the same job as them.”
“I hope the Hovis management will sit down with BFAWU representatives and find a satisfactory resolution as soon as possible”, she added.
Well they did sit down together and agreement was reached on Monday 23rd September.
Hopefully Hovis crumpets are now back on the menu but Labour’s agenda to end zero hours contracts remains.