Bakers union helps members facing an uncertain Christmas

Finsbury Foods closed their Grain D’Or site in Harlesden on the 1st December due to a loss of volume. The closure badly affected the 250 people working on the site, but Project Workers from BFAWU Learning Services were determined to support staff facing an uncertain Christmas.

Carol Hillaby and Karen Plasom from the BFAWU had been working with the site for around 10 years and knew what a loss it would be to the local area, so they pulled out all the stops to make sure workers were supported and built up their CV’s to give them a good chance finding new work.​

Carol takes up the story:

I was invited to attend a Redundancy Consultation meeting on 5th September by Steve Finn who is the Regional Officer for the BFAWU, to see what we could do to support these employees.”

Some of them have worked there for over 20 years, never had a CV and some had never had an interview.  The site manager, Ron Walton was very pleased that we could help the employees’ as he felt he had let them down.”

Carol and Karen set up sessions to help staff. Some have already started to deliver results with Carol receiving emails thanking them for their help developing a CV and telling them that workers had successfully secured new jobs.

As well as CV writing the Project Workers made use of a number of resources including an ‘Interview Tips’ handout to help them with the process and booklets from the ‘Money Advice Service’ which they give out to everyone. 

Carol said that staying positive is important:

We tried our hardest to give the guys confidence, most of us know how it feels to be made redundant, we understand how low they must feel and if we can help and put a smile back on their faces it’s worth all the hard work.”

As the BFAWU have been working on the site for so long the Project Workers had a very good idea of the skills on site, and the gaps that workers needed to fill.

Carol said: 

The biggest skills gap has always been an ESOL need on this site.  This has made our job harder, at times, but we coped.  Because of the lateness of this process we could not help with courses, but we were advising that once they are redundant they could look in their communities to see if there are any courses they can attend.”

Carol and Karen helped 105 employee’s by writing CV’s and pointing them in the direction of Universal Credit if they need this help.

Carol said they ensured these fitted around the shift patterns:

We even did a night session for the night guys which was very well attended, we couldn’t even find time to have a break for food, as you can imagine, once we got home at 6am we slept well.”

Finsbury Foods and the union have worked together to ensure the best support possible. Carol and Karen were given very good facilities to work and workers were given time off the shift to see them as well being supplied with food and hot drinks.

Carol added that:

They have also issued us with Training Folders for everyone, and the Grain D’Or also bought Job Centre Plus on site and a company called Bakkvour, they carried out interviews and tests for those who wanted them.”

The HR team at Grain D’Or have been very keen to work with the union, and impressed with the support that Carol and Karen offered workers.

Cherie Nedd,  Lead Project manager at the site and said:

As part of my remit leading the HR project at Grain D’Or, I was responsible for providing outplacement support for our people.

During this process Carol Hillaby and Karen Plasom from BFAWU Learning Services volunteered to not only support their union members, but all of our people. This is a fantastic service run by the BFAWU.”

They spoke to staff about their skills and experience not only gained at Grain D’Or but prior to working with us. They also highlighted transferable skills; instilling staff with the confidence to apply for roles after their working life at Grain D’Or.”

The ladies were professional, attentive and an amazing support to our people. I would highly recommend their skills and the service to other employers. Although the closing of the Grain D’Or site is indeed sad, I feel rest assured that our people have been fully supported by Carol and Karen and now have the tools to apply and secure a new role in the future.”

Workers at the factory really appreciated the support they received. Mohamed Wali Yasin has already started a new job and said:

Thanks and congratulations. I got good job, better than one I had, and started on 4th December. That's your help because you prepared my CV, very well and well-prepared.”

Carol added that the BFAWU Learning Services Union Learning Fund (ULF) Project has supported a number of workplaces in a similar position.

Carol said:

Unfortunately this kind of work has become the norm for us over the last 2 years and if it wasn’t for the support of the Bakers Union and the ULF Project these guys would be walking away with no skills at all. Without the support of Project Manager, John Vickers, the General Secretary, Ronnie Draper and the Regional Officer, Steve Finn, this wouldn’t happen.”