A 90-day consultation period involving 900 Premier Foods employees who will lose their jobs has been described as a “slow, lingering death” by the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).

It comes as Unite has called urgent talks with the firm’s bosses following the announcement of job cuts being made from its bread division, as a result of the closure of two of its bakery sites in Birmingham and Greenford, west London.

Steve Finn, regional officer for BFAWU’s London region, told British Baker that all employees from Premier Foods’ Greenford site, believed to be around 196 employees, will be affected by the move and could working up to 10 months before leaving their positions at the company.

“All I can describe this consultation period to, which begins tomorrow, and the following months is a slow, lingering death - it simply isn’t all over in 90 days. All 196 employees working at Greenford are affected by this move and it is devastating that it could take so long to make any sort of decisions, particularly in the run-up to Christmas.”

John Higgins, organising regional secretary for BFAWU’s Midlands region, who is representing more than 500 Premier Foods employees in Birmingham, said: “Employees are still in shock. The first briefing was held nationwide this morning around 7am, but some workers would have woken up to the news on the television or radio.

“The loss of The Co-operative contract should have been planned for by Premier Foods, they knew it was under threat about four or five weeks ago.”

Both Higgins and Finn said they were unsure whether employees from across the company would ballot for strike action to take place regarding the job losses.

“I’m not sure whether they will want to fight, or will be able to,” explained Finn. “Will strike action stop the company from making the closures? Who knows?.”

Unite national officer for food and drink Jennie Formby said: “The joint trade unions are calling for an urgent national meeting with Premier Foods’ management to discuss the implications of today’s announcement which is a devastating blow for the 900 workers, their families and the local communities in west London and Birmingham.

“Management claims the job losses are as a result of ‘competition and wheat prices’, but the reality is that our members are continuing to pay the heavy price of Premier’s failure to make a success of the business and we remain extremely concerned about the future of the remaining business.”