Production of the brand’s world famous ketchup and other sauces was last year trumpeted as likely to come to Kraft Heinz’s giant Kitt Green plant in a prestigious deal that looked sure to cement the site’s future and boost jobs.
But changes to working practices, proposed by management in order to implement the new lines and backed by union bosses, were roundly rejected by staff in a vote.
It laid the blame for the policy change squarely on the workers who refused to budge.
Concerns had been voiced after the “no” vote that the loss of the sauce deal might signal the beginning of the end of Heinz’s presence in Wigan.
And the company has now suggested that “improvements” would be needed if it were to have a future in the town although it does talk of further investments without specifying them.
Its statement read: “As a direct result of the ballot last year which rejected the package of measures and progress towards modernised working practices that was needed to underpin this investment at Kitt Green, the company has re-evaluated the location to build additional production capacity for sauces.
“A decision has been taken for the current sauces investment to be made in our Alfaro and Pudliszki factories based in Spain and Poland respectively.
“Whilst we can congratulate our colleagues in Alfaro and Pudliszki for this significant investment, it is disappointing that on this occasion the Kitt Green site was unsuccessful in securing this opportunity.
“With this decision now made, we will continue with our focus and dedication in driving the improvements needed for us to continue our journey at Kitt Green to be exceptional in everything we do.
“With respect to our current and future investment plans at Kitt Green, we are working to ensure that the right level of investments continue to be made at Kitt Green which remains one of the most important facilities within our network.
“As an ongoing process, the Company will continue to evaluate the future growth across our various product categories and capacity gaps. Therefore, it remains important that Kitt Green is a possible option in the future when the need arises.”
In December a member of staff contacted wigantoday anonymously to say that the workers were told it was conditional that they accept a pay cut - for some up to £70 a week - in order for the sauce production deal to go through: something which both Heinz and the Unite union deny.
Unite, which says the revised contracts “involved a few amendments for shift patterns,” and no pay cuts confirmed that it recommended that they accept the proposals but the workers voted it down.
A wigantoday source in the company said that there were real worries that if the deal did not go ahead it could spell trouble for the Kitt Green plant in the long term.