EXCLUSIVE: Hundreds of jobs at risk at Cooplands

Hundreds of jobs at a major bakery business are at risk, with staff warned of redundancies.
Cooplands Head Office, Wharf Road. Picture: Andrew RoeCooplands Head Office, Wharf Road. Picture: Andrew Roe
Cooplands Head Office, Wharf Road. Picture: Andrew Roe

Employees at Cooplands, which employs 750 staff, have been warned the firm is struggling and a business restructuring specialist has now taken over the bakery chain in a last ditch attempt to turn around its fortunes.

However, staff have been warned that jobs could be lost across all areas of the business and if a rescue package is not put together the company could close.

Cooplands employs 550 staff across its 88 Yorkshire branches as well as a further 200 at its Doncaster head office in Wharf Road.

A letter to staff says the company lost money last year and has continued to see a decline in sales.

It says: “We have all worked hard over the last 12 months to try and stem the losses but unfortunately everybody’s efforts have been in vain.

“Unfortunately the result of this is that the business cannot sustain its current cost base and this has an impact on the number of employees that we can employ in the foreseeable future.

“Regrettably we now therefore have to consider the loss of job roles across all areas of the business.”

The memo, dated January 16, goes on to say that Cooplands was bought by Resolve which is reviewing the business. The outcomes could include a reorganisation of the business, it states, or it could involve a sale of all or part of the business. It adds there remains a great deal of uncertainty.

It is understood options for the future include finding a buyer, the business becoming smaller, or closure. All the options are understood to include job losses.

A member of staff who did not want to be named said: “We have been told that the first redundancies will be on about March 3.

It’s all been hushed up. You can’t get jobs in Doncaster now and there’s going to be over 600 people looking for jobs at once.”

Another added: “We’ve been told that the shops will close or be kept part open. Some shops are 100 per cent closing, but we don’t know which ones.

“I’m worried about what’s going to happen, as like a lot of people I have children and bills to pay. The bills will still want paying and how are we going to do that for two months without wages?”

Shane Sweeting, of trade union Unite, confirmed it had members at Cooplands who are affected.

He added: “We have just under 10 per cent of Cooplands workforce in the union, but you need 10 per cent to get recognition from the business.

“We have offered to go in to support the staff, but we are not able to negotiate on their behalf.

“We have to rely on the law and what they are entitled to with redundancy pay.”

He said Unite would continue to support the workers as much as they can and give them legal advice, if necessary in the coming weeks.

He added: “Cooplands was a trademark of Doncaster, it’s been a substantial employer in the town for years and it’s a shame that this has happened.”

Despite several phone calls to Cooplands and visits to it head office Cooplands refused to comment.

Mark Supperstone, a partner at Resolve, also declined to comment.

Simon Dishman, policy and information officer at Doncaster Chamber said: “Its regrettable when only this week staff at two Tesco’s stores heard that they were to lose their jobs, that more jobs should be at risk in the borough. This is because of the financial uncertainty surrounding Cooplands, a company with a proud heritage here in Doncaster dating back 1932.”

“However, it must be emphasised that whilst Doncaster is still in the process of recovering from the economic downturn, there is a note of optimism in area with numerous projects either completed or in the pipeline that continue to drive the towns on-going economic regeneration and development.

“Projects such as; the Frenchgate Centre; the Lakeside; FARRRS; Inland Port and the Civic and Cultural Quarter are all helping drive the towns on-going regeneration and will help boost job creation. Whilst Doncaster is continuing to recover from the economic downturn there will be bumps in the road, nevertheless the town has the capacity and wherewithal to continue to attract business and drive inward investment with a view to offsetting recent job losses”