In February, Tesco announced that it was relocating its chilled foods operation from Wincanton’s Stakehill Industrial Estate warehouse in Middleton to its own site in Widnes, Cheshire. The news came like a bolt from the blue for over 200 Wincanton drivers, some of whom had worked for over 15 years on the contract.
Faced with redundancy and unemployment, many older drivers accepted their fate immediately but, fortunately for them, Transline-Resource National Contract Manager, Robin Wilson had a solution which would satisfy all concerned. He approached Wincanton Transport Manager Bob Grice about the possibility of holding a series of recruitment open days.
"What appealed to us was the skill level of the workforce. All of them have already passed Wincanton’s stringent driving assessments so they don’t need to be retrained and we can put them to good use on any one of our 15 Wincanton contracts in the region. That’s quite a big opportunity for an agency such as ours so we had to seize it," said Robin.
Robin’s enthusiasm was subsequently matched by Bob and Wincanton General Manager Eddy Howard, who was loathed to see so many loyal Wincanton employees condemned to the scrapheap after years of serving the Company. Permission for the open days was granted and Transline-Resource distributed information leaflets two weeks ago and spent two days signing up drivers last week.
Eddy said: "At Wincanton we care about our drivers and will do everything in our power to keep them. We’ve placed some on other contracts but unfortunately, with the closure of our Middleton operation, the majority were facing redundancy.
"That amount of skill loss would have been a travesty so I was delighted when Transline-Resource approached us with their proposal. They know the company well and are able to provide a solid bridge for our drivers to cross into other driving work."
55 drivers registered with Transline-Resource on the open days and that number is growing by the day as word gets round. Around 50% will be allocated to the Company’s growing Wincanton contract in St Helens with the rest being used to meet demand at a number of other sites.
John Statham from Middleton, who has been driving at the site for 12 years, signed up last Thursday. He said: "Its great news for me. I just wanted to continue to be treated well and, from what I’ve seen so far, I think I will be by Transline-Resource. If they do that then I will give it my all as I have done ever since I began working here."
Barry Robinson, who has also worked at Stakehill for the past 12 years, added: "I’d heard good things from the lads in the staff room so I thought I’d pop down to take a look. I’d never considered agency work before but I have to say its been a real eye opener. The pay is good, it’s in the area and they can do my CPC so it ticks a lot of boxes for me. I’m happy to sign up."
Robin Wilson adds: "Whilst we train all new drivers in accordance with Wincanton’s assessment procedures, it is always mutually beneficial to take on ex-Wincanton drivers because they know exactly what to do on-site and just get on with it and if that means saving a lot of them from unemployment then that’s even better."