The Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) claimed the manufacturing giant had told its officals it “had no intention of settling the dispute”, was “happy for the strikes to continue” and would not “review of its use of third-party zero-hours contracts”.
The union also claimed a senior director at the company had written to “highly-paid strike breakers, praising their ‘Dunkirk spirit’”.
But Premier Foods dismissed claims that it did not want to reach a settlement as “ridiculous”.
‘Tried our best’
A Premier Foods spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We tried our best to address the concerns raised verbally and in writing. We don’t directly use zero-hours labour any more.
“When it comes to agency labour, we reserve the right to use it to cover seasonal operational peaks, short term sickness absences and holidays. We have made written assurances to the union about how and when we use that labour.”
The spokesman added that it had proposed setting up a forum to resolve the dispute. “We have offered to establish a senior level forum, involving senior management from Premier Foods, national union officials and local representatives to address the problems raised by the dispute,” he said.
Messages of support
Meanwhile, the BFAWU claimed its members at Hovis had received messages of support from Labour MPs and organisations from across the country.
“A number of fellow trade unions, members of the public and other organisations have made donations to the BFAWU strike fund and have visited the official picket line to congratulate the workers for the stand they are taking,” it said in a statement.
The union added that it had also received “countless” messages of support from agency workers who had suffered due to zero hours contracts. “Many of them have told us that they don’t even get paid holidays or sick pay and have their job opportunities severely limited,” said the union.
It claimed the public was “appalled” at the company’s behaviour, with “significant numbers” boycotting not only Hovis products, but Premier Foods’ products as a whole.
When the strike began last month a spokesman told us: “The limited use of agency labour to cover seasonal peaks labour demands, holiday and sickness absence is an integral part of our operational flexibility that is understood and accepted by all our other sites.”
The third week of strikes is due to start at 6.00am on Wednesday, September 25.