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Police swoop on Hovis pickets

Three arrested, but delivery drivers take 'day off' in solidarity

Three trade unionists were arrested in the early hours on Monday as they picketed a bakery in support of striking Hovis workers.

Police with dogs tried to clear the picket line at the bread-makers' plant in Wigan, Lancashire, where more than 200 members of the Bakers', Food and Allied Workers' Union (BFAWU) are staging their second week of strike action against "zero-hours" contracts.

Hovis imposed redundancies then hired agency workers on zero-hours contracts in their place, meaning that workers are called in when needed and left unpaid otherwise.

Emotions have been running high at the bakery where the management is bussing in highly paid scab workers accommodated in Manchester hotels to keep the ovens on.

Trucks are being driven through the picket by managers that leave the bakery at about 3am.

But members of the United Road Transport Union are reportedly refusing to cross the line.

Around 70 pickets were in action yesterday.

Among them was BFAWU local organiser Pauline Nazir.

"The wagons have to go out at 3am," she said. "There were quite a few on the picket line.

"We were stopping the wagons coming out.

"There were police there and a lot of management. The vans couldn't move.

"The police were asking people to move and then pushing them out of the way.

"They knocked one girl over but she got up and carried on."

The union said only seven of the 36-strong Hovis truck fleet got out, and some came back still loaded after drivers who are members of the United Road Transport Union "decided to have a day off."

Ms Nazir said that two people were arrested on suspicion of obstructing the highway while a third was arrested for a public order offence.

She said police were approached after the first woman was arrested.

"We told them that if they'd let her go we would move away, but they wouldn't," commented Ms Nazir.

"All three were taken to the police station they were kept in for five or six hours, and released about 9am."

But she added that the pickets were in good spirits despite the crackdown.

"The mood on the picket line was absolutely brilliant," she said. "It was a peaceful picket.

"The police brought dogs but they put them back in the vans."

The strike ends at 6am tomorrow. A third is planned from September 25 to October 2.

BFAWU says that, with an estimated one million British workers suffering zero-hours contracts, the Wigan bakery workers' struggle symbolises resistance on behalf of them all.

The strikers need support on the picket line from 2am tomorrow, and financial support.

Messages of support can be texted to 07943 895-970.


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