Warburtons has announced a £25 million investment programme at its Bolton bakery. However the move threatens the jobs of around a quarter of its workforce at the site.

The planned investment involves the redevelopment of the bakery, which will result in the closure of two of its existing bread plants. The firm has revealed that 121 jobs, out of the 234 employed on the two bread lines, are at risk. There are 477 staff employed at the Bolton bakery.

“As the two existing bread plants require upgrading, we will be creating a new single facility that will ensure we have a sustainable and efficient manufacturing facility to meet future customer requirements,” announced Warburtons.

The firm will now enter into a 90-day consultation period, followed by a 30-day consultation period, said
Ian Hodson, organising regional secretary, Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).

He told British Baker that an initial meeting took place at Warburtons on Wednesday 27 January, and staff at the bakery were subsequently informed about the possible job losses following the meeting.

He said the initial reaction to the announcement from shop stewards was that they were “pretty devastated by the news”. “It came as a shock. It was totally out of the blue, and had a real sting in the tail,” said Hodson.

The new facility will be commissioned from September 2011, enabling Warburtons to “continue to grow and develop”.

The firm has said it will be “working closely with its impacted employees and their representatives to explore all possible alternatives, during the consultation period”.

The BFAWU will hold a meeting with members on 6 February, followed by a meeting with the company to go through the consultation process on 9 February, said Hodson.