Workers left in dark over Kearsley bakery closure

9:22pm Tuesday 17th June 2008

By Nick Yates, Business Editor

AN inquiry into the conduct of a beleaguered bakery firm's management team has been demanded by furious staff and union officials.

There were angry scenes at a meeting of workers from the Peter Hunt Bakery, where 200 jobs are under threat.

Staff packed the Farnworth and Kearsley Labour Club on Saturday for a meeting organised by the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).

Union representatives are demanding an investigation into the conduct of the management team of Lyndale Foods, parent company of Hampsons and Sayers the Bakers, which also owned Peter Hunt Bakery.

Lyndale went into administration last week and part of the company was bought back by its management, led by chairman Sandy Birnie and managing director Michael Quinlin, under the new name of Sayers the Bakers.

Following the buyout, a Sayers bakery in Norris Green, Liverpool, was closed, along with 40 Sayers and Hampsons stores across the North-west.

Around 450 jobs have already gone and more than 200 more at the Peter Hunt Bakery in Kearsley could still go if the right buyer for the business is not found by administrators.

The bakery has been closed since last Monday and staff are still waiting to see if a buyer has been found.

Dermot Power, administrator with BDO Stoy Hayward, said: "We will commence production again on Wednesday because we have been able to secure orders from the bakery's existing customers.

"No buyer has been found yet, but I am in negotiations with a few parties.

"What I would say is that it is highly likely that any buyer will want some, but not all, of the employees."

John Stott, branch secretary for BFAWU at the Peter Hunt Bakery, said: "Lyndale's handling of Sayers, Hampsons and Hunts has been appalling to say the least, and it sticks in the throat that the individuals in control of this buyout get to cut and run with a shiny new business in tow, while people such as myself and 173 union members could well be losing our jobs.

"The actions of the entire Lyndale set-up are worthy of a Government investigation in my opinion."

The BFAWU is upset that workers at the Peter Hunt Bakery were not given any notice of the administration. Workers have not been paid for their last week of work and are unlikely to receive redundancy payments from the firm.

Mr Stott said: "We have been treated in a poor way. We can't allow these people to walk away with a new business and then paint a picture that they have saved us all."

Mr Stott also claimed that Mr Birnie had gone back on his pledge of full commitment to the Peter Hunt Bakery, made before the sale of the business was announced.

A spokesman for Sayers the Bakers, said: "This has been a painful exercise, but these decisions were about protecting the long term futures of 1,500 staff and making sure that they have a future in sustainable employment.

"Sandy Birnie of Sayers placed a £500,000 order with Peter Hunt's administrator on Friday to get the factory up and running and enable BDO to find a suitable buyer."

Dr Brian Iddon, MP for Bolton South East, attended the meeting and pledged to bring it to the attention of Parliament this week.

He said: "I will be conveying what has happened here to our ministers in London. We will explore whether this company has flouted the rules as laid down by Government, or whether it has acted illegally."

Several area managers for Hampsons, who have already been made redundant, were at the meeting. One said he had £1,000 worth of expenses that had not been paid and had his company car taken off him with a full tank of petrol in it, paid for by him.

One manager, who claimed £300 of outstanding expenses from a till at one of his stores, said he had been threatened with legal action if he did not return the money.

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