TRADE unions have called for urgent talks with Premier Foods after it announced the closure of its Hovis factory in Greenford and 200 job cuts.
The food company announced this morning plans to shut factories in Oldfield Lane North, Greenford, Birmingham, Plymouth and Mendlesham, Suffolk.
More than 900 people around the country could face redundancy sometime next year.
Unite has backed the majority union Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union to discuss the future of its workers.
Premier Foods, which also owns Bisto gravy, Sharwood's and Mr Kipling cakes, has blamed the loss of a £75million contract with supermarket The Co-op last month and rising wheat costs for the need to ‘simplify’ its bread distribution network. It is cutting 130 routes around the country.
But the unions say it is down to the company’s failure to invest in the brand since taking over in 2006.
Bakers Union general secretary Ronnie Draper said: "We’re now talking to our members in bakeries and we will be doing whatever we can to assist them. We would like to keep the factories open, whether or not that is a viable option when 20 per cent of the company’s business has gone, I don’t know.
"The company needs to learn some lessons from this. They have under invested in the brand, they haven’t been proactive and that’s not the best way in this industry.
"And our people end up paying for that poor business management."
Mr Draper said the majority of job losses will be in the bakeries, but drivers are also at threat. Many of its workers suddenly facing redundancy have worked in the industry all their lives, he said.
"The baking industry has a fantastic amount of loyalty. The staff turn over is relatively low; people stick with companies like this. And what happens to the loyalty? They lose their jobs. It’s devastating.
"The government isn’t creating any jobs. These people will be left to find part time, low paid, casual or agency work. These people who have had stable jobs with relatively good income and work for a company which is a household name are being rewarded with the prospect of long term unemployment."
Ealing North MP Steve Pound said the news was the ‘cruellest Christmas present for the workforces and their families’ and would be speaking with Job Centre Plus to ensure workers who are made redundant are given the right support to find new jobs.
He said: "The factory has been in Oldfield Lane since the 1930s but the recent takeover by Premier Foods meant that the homely traditional Hovis loaf was lost amidst a massive corporate expansion and I think Greenford is suffering for this.
"I hope that Premier will repay the loyalty of the workforce by doing all that they can to help them find new jobs and I’m speaking to Job Centre Plus on the same subject," he said.
"I also want to know when exactly the axe will fall – to say ‘sometime in 2013’ is doubly cruel and will cause immense pain and distress to the hardworking Greenford people who worked so hard for Hovis and have nothing to show for it but uncertainly and imminent unemployment."
* Do you work at Hovis? Contact our reporter Poppy Bradbury via firstname.lastname@example.org.