Warburtons and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) have agreed a “landmark” deal to improve employee terms and make the business more agile.

The business, producer of Britain’s biggest bread brand, said the move would enable it to meet changing consumer demand through innovation while improving the long-term security of its staff.

The new collective agreement – which has taken Warburtons and the union months to thrash out – includes a simpler pay structure and a higher hourly base rate that the company said would leave the majority of its workers better off.

In addition, the deal will give the business the opportunity to introduce new shift patterns.

“This is not about cost savings from salaries – this has required an investment from the business into our people and is about creating better working conditions and better pay for them, while also allowing us the flexibility and agility we need,” a Warburtons spokesperson told British Baker.

Following a strong recommendation from the BFAWU, an “overwhelming majority” of union members voted in favour of the deal in a company-wide ballot. The agreement will apply to 1,600 workers – primarily shop-floor staff – who make up around a third of Warburtons’ workforce. It will not apply to drivers or office staff.

“We are so proud of what we’ve achieved alongside Warburtons,” said BFAWU national president Ian Hodson. “By putting its people at the heart of the business, Warburtons is leading the way and is showing the food and drinks industry how things should be done. We hope others follow the example of this landmark deal.”

Warburtons said the finer details of new shift patterns and working arrangements have yet to be decided.

“What it will mean is that someone may be working on a bread plant in the morning, and then perhaps the Thins plant in the afternoon,” added the spokesperson. “We need people to be able to do different things and that required us to change the terms and conditions of how the teams are set up and what roles they fill.

“Over the past five years we have seen a greater need to produce different products – not just bread loaves made in a particular way on a particular line. Innovation such as Thins, Toastie Pockets and Giant Crumpets all require people to work slightly differently and have different sets of skills.”

Warburtons chairman Jonathan Warburton said he believed the modern terms and conditions would support the business and its staff for the long term

“Ensuring the long-term success of our family business means we need to set ourselves up to face the challenges of the future,” he added. “We’re pleased that our people have voted to accept the proposal, and we will continue to work closely with them and the BFAWU to implement them over the coming months.”

Separately, Warburtons this week announced it was rebranding its free-from product range.