Up to 400 jobs under threat following Ocado warehouse fire

Online shopping fulfilment provider Ocado has warned staff that they may face redundancy following the fire at its warehouse operations in Andover, Hampshire in February.

The £45m high-tech distribution facility suffered an extensive fire that burned for four days, which investigators believe was caused by a faulty battery charging unit. Ocado said in a statement: “In light of the fact that the rebuild of Andover fulfilment centre will take at least two years to complete, it is with immense regret that we have commenced a formal consultation process.

“We would like to thank all of our colleagues for their hard work and we will provide them with all the support we can during this process. We are committed to rebuilding and restoring our operations in Andover, and sincerely hope that we are able to welcome any affected colleagues back to Ocado in the future.”

Ocado agreed a two-year deal with its retail client Morrisons to use some of its South-East London distribution centre to ensure continuity of service to customers. It also increased capacity at its two other warehouses in Hatfield in Hertfordshire and Dordon, Warwickshire.

It is understood that about 450 Andover-based workers - just over half of the total workforce at the site - will retain their jobs including most delivery drivers after the company opened a temporary facility for vans to pick up ready-packed orders, but many other staff, including those responsible for picking and packing orders, are not likely to transfer roles to other locations because of the long distances involved.

Daniel Adams, national officer for the Usdaw union, said: “Clearly the staff are devastated by this development, particularly as they have spent the last three months helping to keep the business going after a fire gutted the Andover site. The company tell us that they have been trying to find a suitable alternative site in the Andover area, without success, and they now face a two-year rebuild to replace the burnt-out facility, so they are proposing to place a significant number of the customer fulfilment centre staff at risk of redundancy.”

Ocado said that since the incident, it has introduced additional localised smoke detectors at its other centres, removed the plastic lid on its robots believed to have initially enabled the fire, and added heat sensors.

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