Concerns have been raised following WiggleCRC’s announcement it will move 300 jobs from Northern Ireland to England in a bid to speed up delivery times.
Wiggle, whose UK turnover exceeded £100m last year, acquired Chain Reaction Cycles in February. It says it will keep both brands, and their websites, but in order to remain competitive it will move a significant number of Chain Reaction Cycles’ warehouse jobs to Wolverhampton in late summer 2017.
Concerns have been raised over the loss of jobs from what has been described as one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic businesses, in a move Unite’s regional officer called “corporate asset stripping”.
WiggleCRC says it remains committed to Northern Ireland but cites later order cut-off dates and the importance of rapid delivery to customers for the move, following a review of the two companies’ operations.
A statement released by WiggleCRC said: “As part of the review we are aware that delivery, including later order cut-offs and speed, is becoming increasingly important for customers and a highly competitive area for all etailers.”
It said to remain competitive in the UK and global markets the majority of distribution will be through a Wolverhampton warehouse facility, with the potential loss of 152 direct employees and 161 agency workers.
“This necessary step, will require the relocation of significant warehouse activities currently in Doagh, Carrickfergus and Ballyclare," the statement said. "As part of this proposal, bikes and frames, including bike assembly handling activities and our wheel build operation would remain in Ballyclare.”
“WiggleCRC will retain a significant staff and management presence in Northern Ireland, with at least 275 unaffected employees forming a vital part of our ambitious growth plans.”
“We recognise that these are uncertain times for affected employees and can confirm they will be treated fairly and in line with our values.
“We are fully committed to minimising the impact of these proposals and providing all the necessary support to affected employees in any way we can during and after this process. That includes working with the Department of the Economy’s Careers Service to help provide affected employees with advice and guidance on new employment and training opportunities.”
Ulster Unionist Assembly member, Steve Aiken, told Belfast Live: “The story of Chain Reaction Cycles has, up to now, been one of continual expansion and success.
“From its early days starting in Ballynure, its online cycle business has developed into a global success, and it has become one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic businesses.
“This will also significantly affect the Royal Mail as Chain Reaction have been one of their biggest customers.”
Unite Regional Officer, Davy Thompson, said: “This appears to be a clear case of corporate asset-stripping. Wiggle acquired its competitor, the successful Northern Ireland distribution and retail business Chain Reaction cycles, in February of this year and by October wants to close most of its Northern Ireland operations.
“Management gathered the warehouse union reps together this afternoon to inform them all Northern Ireland operations, with the exception of the White Park mechanical repair facility at which approximately twenty workers are based, will be closed by Summer 2017.
“This decision threatens redundancy for more than 150 full-time and 160 agency workers and is completely indefensible.
“Earlier in the year, Unite reps raised concerns with political leaders that Wiggle’s acquisition might be driven by a desire to buy a competitors’ order-book with little long-term commitment to its workforce. We were given assurances that this was not the case."